Residence Hall Directors Referral Guide

When a Student May Need Counseling:  A Guide for Residence Hall Directors

Some signs that  indicate a student may be experiencing more stress than she/he can handle are:

  • Marked decline in quality of course work, class participation, quality of papers or test results.
  • Increased absence from class or failure to turn work in.
  • Chronic fatigue and low energy.
  • Attention and memory difficulties.
  • Low self-esteem and prolonged depression, suggested by a sad expression, apathy, weight loss, sleep difficulties, or tearfulness.
  • Nervousness, agitation, excessive worry, irritability and sudden outbursts of anger, threats of harming others, aggressiveness, or nonstop talking.
  • Abrupt or radical changes in behavior or bizarre behavior, speech, writing, or thinking.
  • Abnormal eating or exercise behaviors.
  • Alcohol and other drug abuse.
  • Isolation from others.
  • Extreme dependency on faculty, staff, or community leader, including spending much of his/her spare time visiting during office hours or at other times.
  • Marked changes 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.”

You should consider referring a student for counseling when:

  • You believe a student’s problems go beyond your own experience and expertise.
  • A student indicates she/he is looking for someone to talk to.
  • You are extremely busy or are experiencing stress in your own life. and are unable or unwilling to handle the student’s needs.
  • You have talked to the student and helped as much as you can but further assistance is needed.
  • You think that your personal feelings about the student would interfere with your ability to be helpful.
  • The student admits there is a problem but does not want to talk to you about it.
  • The student asks for information or assistance that you are unable to provide.

Examples of issues that often prompt referral to a counselor include the following:

  • Social/personal concerns, Career choices/selecting a major
  • Stress, Depression, General anxiety
  • Identity development/individuation
  • Substance abuse, Sexual assault
  • Relationship concerns, Racial/cultural adjustments
  • Extreme test anxiety, Grief/loss (including loss of a romantic relationship)

Note:  In general, a referral is appropriate if a student’s problems have compromised his or her ability to function academically, personally,  socially, or to take pleasure in life.

One way of introducing the topic of a referral to Counseling Services is to summarize for the student what you see as the content of the problem.  Point out the emotional responses that you have heard from the student, perhaps with an expression of concern.  For example, “You sound very upset about that”,  “I have found that other students who have felt that way have benefited from talking to someone at Counseling Services”. “ How would you feel about that?”  Above all, it is critical to communicate your concern respectfully, sensitively, and in a way that honors the autonomy and self-efficacy of the person you are referring.

Scroll to Top