How to make a referral

One way of introducing the topic of a counseling referral to a student is to summarize to them what you understand to be the problem. For example, “You sound very depressed about your relationship problems. I have found that other students who felt that way have been helped by talking to a professional, someone at CAPS. How would you feel about that?”

In speaking to the student about counseling, it is important to keep in mind some of the negative reactions a student may have to the idea and be ready to discuss them.

You can explain to the student that counseling is not just for “crazy” people (most clients have normal “problems in living”) nor does it encourage dependency (counseling is time-limited on campus). Counseling does provide a chance to explore feelings and solve problems with the help of an objective, sensitive, concerned listener, who is professionally trained.

Once the student has agreed that counseling might be useful, there are several possible steps to take, depending on the student’s attitude and the urgency of the situation.

  1. Give the student information about CAPS and urge them to call.
  2. Offer to let the student call from your office right then, so that a public commitment will be made.
  3. Accompany the student yourself to make sure he or she arrives at CAPS, and provide the center with any necessary information. The CAPS staff will 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.

Although most students are ambivalent about counseling, it is important that the student really wants 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, it is better to try to maintain your relationship with the student rather than to force them to go to CAPS. The idea can be brought up again later.