When to refer
A referral for psychological counseling should be considered when you believe that a student’s problems go beyond your own experience and expertise, and/or when you feel uncomfortable helping a student with some issue. A referral may be made (a) because the student’s problems are interfering with academic work or your teaching, or (b) because observations of the student’s personal behavior raise concerns apart from academic work. Some more easily recognized indicators that a student may be experiencing more stress than he or she can handle effectively include:
- marked decline in quality of course work – e.g., class participation, quality of papers or test results, increased absence from class, failure to turn in work.
- prolonged depression – sad expression, apathy, weight changes, sleeping difficulty, tearfulness.
- nervousness, agitation, excessive worry, irritability, aggressiveness, nonstop talking.
- strange behavior or speech.
- extreme dependency on faculty or staff – e.g., hanging around during office hours and at other times.
- marked change in personal hygiene.
- talk of suicide, either directly or indirectly (such as “I won’t be around to take that exam anyway” or “I’m not worried about getting a job – I won’t need one”).
- comments in a student’s paper that arouse concern.
Each student experiences stress somewhat differently. Many disturbances in the 17-22 age groups are relatively transient. However, some behavior changes may be prolonged. If there is doubt about the seriousness of the problem, feel free to consult the Psychological Services staff (856-225-6005) concerning evaluation of the situation and appropriate steps to take. All such communications will be confidential except when a student poses clear and present danger to him/herself or others, or with the expressed permission of the referring faculty member.
Working with students yourself
In some cases, students who seek your help or arouse your concern may work more effectively with you rather than with Psychological Services. You may choose to work with the student on improving academic work (i.e., level of performance, behavior in class) without focusing on underlying psychological issues affecting behavior. It is of utmost importance, however, to determine as soon as possible whether the student requires a sympathetic ear, academic advice, or psychotherapeutic treatment.
Making the referral
One way of introducing the topic of a psychological referral is to reiterate the emotional responses that you have heard from the student, perhaps with an expression of your concern. For example, “You sound very upset about that area. I have found that other students who have felt that way have benefited from talking to a professional, someone at Psychological Services. How would you feel about that?”
Once the student has agreed that it might be useful to seek counseling, there are several possible steps to take, depending on the student’s attitude and the urgency of the situation.
- Give the student information about Psychological Services and urge him her to call.
- Offer to let the student call from your office right then, so that a public commitment will have been made.
- Accompany the student yourself to make sure he or she arrives and provide the Psychological Services staff with information. We would appreciate your calling ahead if the student is being brought over or sent directly, so that plans can be made to have a counselor available.
In speaking to the student about counseling, it is important to keep in mind some of the negative reactions a student might have to the idea and to discuss them. Counseling is not just for “crazy” people, nor does it encourage dependency. Counseling does provide a chance to explore issues and solve problems with the help of an objective, sensitive, concerned listener.
Another point, of course, is that the student (although probably ambivalent) should want help. Coercing a student to go to counseling is not likely to have positive results in the long run. Generally, unless there is some immediate concern about the welfare of the student or others, it is better to try to maintain your relationship with the student rather than to force him or her to go to the counseling center.
What happens after a referral is made?
Once a student calls or goes to Psychological Services, an appointment is made for an initial interview. This will usually be held within a few days from the time the student makes contact, depending largely on the flexibility of the student’s schedule and available staff time.
In an emergency, as defined either by you or the student, arrangements will be made to see the student that same day, usually within an hour or so. The initial interview will be relatively short and is intended to learn what is troubling the student and assess what services would be most helpful. If ongoing counseling is appropriate, regular appointments (usually 45-60 minutes once a week) will begin soon.
If an emergency arises during the day, consult Psychological Services (856-225-6005). If a student is actively suicidal, do not leave him or her alone, but send someone for help, if possible. If a suicide attempt is actually in progress, notify University Police to arrange medical care and transportation. For emergencies arising after office hours, call the University Police (856-225-6009 or just 6009 if using a campus phone). Transportation to the Crisis Unit will be arranged.
Psychological Services — an overview
Psychological Services is an integral part of the Rutgers-Camden Student Wellness Center. Counseling services provided are designed to help students with personal problems which interfere with individual development and academic progress. While we are able to assist those with serious problems, many of our efforts focus on enhancing personal growth and effectiveness through prevention activities. Services offered range from a brief consultation to a more comprehensive psychological / psychiatric assessment, crisis intervention, individual, couples and group counseling modalities. Consultation about students is also provided to academic and non-academic agencies within the University.
Psychological Services is staffed by clinical psychologists and a consulting psychiatrist.
This service helps students to clarify the nature of their personal difficulties and to identify options for counseling both within and outside the University. It is on the basis of this evaluation that the counselor can determine whether or not any emergency or crisis response is necessary to manage a student’s concern. Psychiatric evaluations are provided when indicated.
The most frequent request by clients is individual and relationship counseling. Individual counseling can focus on such concerns as anxiety and tension, depression, procrastination, grief due to the loss of a loved one, loneliness, lack of self-esteem or self-confidence, sexual abuse, eating disorders, sexual identity/orientation, and many other personal issues. Relationship counseling focuses on improving or understanding relationships between roommates, friends, spouses, and parents. It can also be used to help the student improve social as well as living skills in the residence hall system.
Psychological Services also offers a variety of opportunities for clients to understand themselves better and to enhance their relationships with others. This may involve changing self-defeating behavioral patterns, understanding uncomfortable feelings, or enhancing personal strengths and abilities. Counseling Services can also help students to:
- develop more independence and maturity.
- handle life situations more effectively.
- accept responsibility for behavior.
- manage stress and anxiety appropriately.
- live by a personal value system.
- create a healthy and satisfying lifestyle.
- develop a mature sexuality.
- develop and maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships.
- enhance self-esteem and self-confidence.
- resolve conflicts and make decisions more effectively.
- address and gain satisfaction out of work activities.
All services provided, as well as clients’ records, are strictly confidential. No information regarding clients is released to any person or agency, including university personnel, without the written permission of the client.
There are no charges for counseling of full-time students. Part-time students and those enrolled at University College are eligible upon payment of the Student Wellness Center fee.
Group counseling is offered each semester. These groups include general therapy sessions that focus on a variety of personal concerns and issues. Additionally, groups focusing on special areas such as women’s issues, sexual abuse, and eating disorders are also offered on a scheduled basis.
Since the content of discussions in group is strictly confidential, such groups are not open on a walk-in basis. Assignment to groups is made through the assessment process.
Psychological Services provides educational programs on an arranged basis for specific student groups or University Departments requesting special topic presentations.
Consultation is provided with any faculty member of a University Department having questions about the behavior of a student. Such consultation may focus on the appropriate management of disruptive classroom behavior, inappropriate interpersonal behavior, or any other issues which may be of general concern to faculty, staff or other students.
There are several other mental health resources in the University and the community. They include the Alcohol / Drug / Nicotine Counseling & Assistance Program for Students (856-225-6005), a counseling and information program for students concerned about their drinking or use of other drugs, about a friend’s use/abuse, or about drug or alcohol misuse in their family. The staff at Psychological Services will refer a student to this and other services as appropriate.
Counseling services for Faculty & Staff
Faculty and staff can receive free short-term psychotherapy help with work related problems, and referrals through the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) on the Rutgers – New Brunswick campus. Coverage for mental health services is also provided through the standard University health insurance.