Referring Students for Services
Guidelines for Dealing with Distressed Students
There are no absolutely correct procedures for dealing with a distressed student. Each person has his or her own style of approaching and responding to others. Furthermore, people have differing capacities to deal with others' problems. It is important to know your personal limits as a helper.
If you choose to try to help a distressed student, or if a student approaches you to talk about personal problems:
- Request to see the student in private.
- Speak directly and honestly to a student when you sense that he/she is in academic and/or personal distress.
- Ask if the student is talking to anyone about the problem (e.g., family or friends). People tend isolate themselves when in distress but this is rarely a useful stance.
- If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, "I've noticed you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Where have you been lately? You should be more concerned about your grades."
- Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has told you. Try to include both content and feeling ("It sounds like you're not accustomed to this much work in so short a period of time and you're worried about failing.")
- Avoid judging, evaluating and criticizing even if the student asks your opinion. It is important to respect the student's value system, even if you don't agree with it.
- Behavior that is strange or inappropriate should not be ignored. Comment directly on what you have observed.
- Do not discuss your concerns with other students