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Purpose

The Center for Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) was developed out of recognition by faculty, staff, and administrators that student learning and success are intricately related to healthy psychological development. Our primary mission is to assist students through maintaining and enhancing their psychological and emotional well-being and promoting their normal development and maturation. Additionally, a wide offering of educational and support programs are designed to foster student development as healthy, thoughtful, responsible, respectful and productive members of a diverse community who will be able to function at their full potential.

Services

Counseling services are provided by a multi-disciplinary staff of mental health professionals. Services include individual and group counseling, developmental programming, emergency services, psychoeducational resources, assessment, consultation and referral. All full-time students other than law students are eligible to use all of our services free of charge. Free consultation and referral services are available for part-time undergraduate students.

Location

The CCSD is located on the second floor of the Center for Student Development Building directly across from Cedar Hall.

Consultation for Faculty & Staff

If you have concerns about a particular student and want assistance with making a referral, call the CCSD (ext. 3124) and request to speak with one of the counselors. Identify yourself as faculty or staff and tell the receptionist that you want help with a student concern. Indicate if the situation is an emergency and requires immediate attention. Students in crisis will be seen as soon as possible on the day of the call.

Indication of Need for Counseling

The following signs may indicate that a student could benefit from a referral to the Counseling Center. To prevent possible over-interpretation of single, isolated behaviors, it is useful for you to look for clusters of indicators. This list includes both sources and effects of stressful circumstances:

Problems in academic performance

  • Dramatic drop in grades
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Sporadic class attendance or protracted absences
  • Difficulty maintaining attention or concentration
  • Lack of alternative goals, especially when failing
  • Extreme dissatisfaction with academic major
  • Confusion with regard to vocational interests, abilities, or values
  • Procrastination
  • Chronic indecisiveness

Unusual behavior

  • Withdrawal from an established pattern of social involvement
  • Marked seclusion and unwillingness to communicate
  • Profound shyness or lack of essential social skills
  • Consistent disturbance in sleeping patterns
  • Extreme loss of appetite or excessive eating
  • Unexplained crying or outbursts of anger
  • Acutely increased activity (e.g., incessant talking)
  • Unusual irritability
  • Nonsensical conversation
  • Extreme suspicion or irrational feelings of persecution
  • Frequent expressions of fear or overwhelming anxiety
  • Marked lack of response to normally upsetting events

Traumatic changes in personal relationships

  • Death of family member or close friend
  • Difficulties in intimate relationships
  • Problems at home with family members
  • Problems with roommates or house mates

Substance abuse

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Pattern of reliance or habitual use of drugs, legal or illegal

References to suicide

  • Statements indicating feelings of hopelessness
  • Statements indicating feelings of helplessness

Note: Any reference to a personal consideration of suicide, threat of suicide, or attempt at suicide should be judged as extremely serious, and a referral to The Counseling Center is highly advised.  IF THE REFERENCE INCLUDES THE HOW, WHEN, WHERE, OR OTHER SPECIFICS OF SUICIDE PLANS, IMMEDIATE REFERRAL IS CRITICAL.

Your own feelings toward a student may also indicate that a referral is in order.  For example:

  • The advising relationship is demanding too much of your time or energy. If you are feeling resentful about the amount of time spent with an advisee, you probably cannot be very helpful to that person. If a student is being particularly needy of your time, it may be an indication that there are psychological problems that would be better addressed in counseling.
  • Your “rescue fantasies” are getting the better of you.  It is natural to hope that your relationship with a student will “make a difference”/”turn the (troubled) person around,” especially if you have established a good relationship with that person. Sometimes the psychological issues of the person are too complex for him/her to be able to benefit from your relationship enough to change long-established patterns.  This may result in resentment, frustration, discouragement on the part of the faculty/staff member when things don’t work out.
  • You find yourself dealing with strong emotions towards the student.  If strong emotions are being evoked in your relationship - either positive or negative - it may be advisable to talk them over - with a trusted colleague or Counseling Center staff - to ensure that you can continue to be helpful to the student.
  • You are caught up in keeping secrets that make you uncomfortable. If a student shares something and swears you to secrecy, but you feel concerned about harm to or by the student or wonder whether you are legally required to report the information, a consult with Counseling - names withheld - might clarify the situation.
  • You feel like you’re in over your head.  Trust your gut. Any situation that feels uncomfortable warrants a consult with the Counseling Center.

Your Role in Assisting Distressed Students

Students having problems may often turn to you, the faculty and staff, while at the university. A student may be encountering academic or personal difficulties, or a combination of events affecting their functioning in and out of the classroom.

Many students experience extensive changes in their lives while in college. Students may leave their homes, communities, and even their home cultures to live independently, many for the first time. In college they must make key career and life decisions while developing the good judgment that marks their maturation from adolescents to young adults.  Students must also manage the special challenges of academics. Under these difficult circumstances students may find their personal resources strained to the limit.

The university endeavors to assist students to make this transition successfully so that they can progress academically as well as develop as persons. If distressing circumstances are significantly affecting a student's well being or ability to make satisfactory academic progress, a referral to counseling may be very helpful to the student.

Faculty and staff are not expected to provide counseling. To make a good referral, express clearly your willingness to help, provide the essential first supportive contact, and assist the student in locating resources. The information in this brochure will assist you in making effective referrals.

How to Make a Referral

When you have decided that a student might benefit from professional counseling, inform the student directly in a straight-forward, matter-of-fact manner, showing simple and concrete concern. Make it clear that the recommendation represents your best judgment, based on observations of the student's behavior. Be specific regarding the behavior patterns that have raised your concerns, but avoid judging the individual's personality and character.

Except in emergencies, leave open the option for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If the student appears skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply express acceptance of these reactions so that the student feels free to reject the referral without rejecting you. Give the student room to consider the alternatives by suggesting that the two of you can discuss the matter later after there has been time to think it over. If the student emphatically says "No," respect the decision, but leave the issue open for possible reconsideration. If you push the issue too far by insisting, prodding, or being authoritarian, you may close the door to future communication altogether.

Above all, do not rush. Unless it is a matter of clear urgency, go slowly. If the student agrees to the referral, with the student present, call the Counseling Center (ext. 3124) and make an appointment convenient to the student's schedule. While your offer to make the phone call is an expression of concern, some students may want to make the call themselves, and would appreciate the use of your phone. If the student is not ready to schedule the appointment, encourage seeking help soon rather than putting off facing the problem.

As appropriate, suggest to the student that with permission, you are willing to give the counselor information about the nature of the problem and the reason for your referral. Show your interest in the student's welfare and give continued support by talking with the student at a later date.

An example:

There are no absolutely correct procedures for dealing with a distressed student. Each person has their own style of approaching and responding to others. Listed below is merely one example.

A student comes into your office and begins to describe problems that are interfering with his/her academic work. At a break in the discussion, you might say:

“It sounds as though you have been under stress, aren’t doing very well, and need to talk with someone about this. I would suggest that you see someone at the Counseling Center. I could call to make arrangements for you right now. What do you think about that?”

Confidentiality: As required by both R.I. law and the ethics of professional practice, all communication between a counselor and client is deemed confidential. We cannot discuss the particulars of a student's situation with others or even the fact that counseling is or is not being provided without the student's consent. If you need information from us about the student, we will ask the student for permission, and abide by the decision. If a faculty member is interested in a student's contact with the Counseling Center, information may best be obtained directly from the student.

Note:
Keep in mind that on occasion students will report to faculty/staff that they are being seen at the Counseling Center when in fact they are not. We are sometimes placed in difficult situations when a faculty/staff member is misled into believing that a student is being seen in counseling and we cannot correct the misperception. If it is crucial that you need to know if a student is following through, please ask the student to sign a release for us to speak with you.

Emergencies

The Counseling Center can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the day, if you have any concerns, however slight, that a student constitutes a threat to him/herself or others, call us at 254-3124.

However, if you believe that someone is so severely depressed or actively suicidal that you would feel uncomfortable if they simply walked out of your office, inform the Counseling Center secretary that you need to speak with a counselor immediately and then consult with the emergency duty counselor about the immediate situation. After office hours (4:30 p.m.) or weekends, call Public Safety (254-HELP) and they will assist you in reaching a counselor. The Department of Student Life coordinates the after-hours on-call system with residential students. Again, call Public Safety to begin the process with either residential or off-campus students.

Note:
Each day there is a counselor who is assigned to handle any emergencies or concerns from faculty and staff. When you call the Center please ask for the on-call counselor. We have made arrangements within the office to deal with imminent emergencies immediately and “other” crises (that are not life-threatening) as soon as possible.