OBSERVE --- A first, and very important step in assisting a student, is to be familiar with the symptoms of distress. Pay close attention to direct communications, as well as implied or hidden feelings. Focus on the observable symptoms and focus on how it is impacting the student’s life.
INITIATE CONTACT --- Don’t ignore strange, inappropriate or unusual behavior(s). Talk to the student in question privately, in a direct and matter-of-fact manner, indicating your observations and concerns. Be sure to focus on the symptoms that were displayed and express your concern about how it is impacting the student. Early feedback, intervention and/or referral can prevent more serious problems from developing.
OFFER SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE --- Your interest, attentive listening and concern may be pivotal in helping a troubled student. Avoid criticisms or sounding judgmental. Allow the student time to respond and acknowledge that their perception may be different. Summarize the essence of what the individual has told you as a way of clarifying the situation. Validate feelings while also encouraging positive action by helping the student to define the problems and generate coping strategies.
REFER --- Know your limits as a helper: only go as far as your expertise and resources allow. When a student needs more help than you are able or willing to give, a referral is appropriate. The following may be helpful in making an individual referral to Counseling Services.
ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY --- UHCS staff are required by law and professional ethics to protect the confidentiality of all communication between therapist and client (except in cases where harm to self or others is indicated). Consequently, the Counseling Services staff cannot discuss with others the details of a student’s situation, or even indicate whether the student is being seen in therapy without the student’s signed consent. It is suggested that you ask a student directly if they followed up on your recommendation to make contact with UHCS.
In most cases, the UHCS would appreciate it if students were prescheduled for appointments by telephone (472-1305). In serious crisis situations, students can be seen the same day. Whenever possible, we would prefer that these students also call ahead to be scheduled (see below):
Student calls UHCS to schedule an appointment. They are offered the next available initial appointment time. If the student is in crisis and cannot wait until their intake appointment, they are scheduled to be seen during one of the “same-day crisis hours” that are reserved for that purpose, typically at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In cases of a crisis that requires an immediate response, the staff/faculty or the student can either call or come directly to UHCS, and a counselor will be assigned to deal with the emergency situation.
When you refer a student, remember that a referral is a transfer of trust. Define the purpose and limitations of your role when talking with the student. Encourage the student to go to UHCS, but remind yourself that the aim of the referral process is to let the student decide for him/herself to seek help. If the student agrees, you can facilitate this by arranging the appointment while the student is with you. You can assist the student in anticipating what will happen and what they will say when they come in for the appointment. When referring a student, point out that asking for help is a sign of strength and courage, not a sign of weakness or failure. Seeking professional help is the smart thing to do, just as it would be for problems with your car, the law, or your health.
Office hours: Monday through Friday – 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ambrose Health Center is located on the corner of Prairie & Starin Roads
The staff of University Health and Counseling Services has a strong desire to provide timely and equitable service to the UWW students who request assistance. In an effort to provide UWW students with the timeliest service possible, UHCS utilizes a short-term therapy model, with a goal of providing assistance in areas of decision-making, crisis intervention, problem-solving, adjustment, or matters of personal concern that could interfere with academic success and well-being. Every student is evaluated individually, and treatment decisions are based on each client’s unique needs. Treatment length may vary from 1-2 sessions to 13-14 sessions, depending on the individual situation.
All services of the University Health and Counseling Services are strictly confidential. UHCS staff will not release any information regarding clients or the services they receive to anyone outside of UHCS, without the written permission of the client. We value consultative relationships with other professionals who provide services to our clients, and welcome the opportunity to share information that is helpful to the client. This requires that the student complete a release of information.
UHCS professional counseling staff have doctoral and/or masters degrees in counseling psychology, clinical psychology, community counseling, and social work. All staff members are licensed or eligible for licensure in the state of Wisconsin. The staff also includes a consulting psychiatrist, who works on a part-time basis. UHCS is a training facility for doctoral and masters students in counseling, social work, and psychology. Most of these therapists hold a masters degree, and all receive direct individual supervision from a licensed UHCS professional staff member.
The mission of University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) is to help students at UWW become successful in meeting their academic goals. Our goal is to help students build a greater sense of self-confidence, manage stress and anxiety, develop and maintain significant relationships, create a healthy life style, and make good decisions for their future. We provide short-term assistance in many areas that could interfere with the academic success and well-being of UWW students. We also provide consultation and crisis response to assist faculty and staff as they encounter psychological issues with UWW students.
As faculty and staff, you come into contact with many students on a daily basis. You are on the “front lines” and thus are in an excellent position to observe students, identify those who may be in emotional distress, and offer assistance. While your concern and support may often be enough to help the student, there will be times when you may feel a referral for additional professional assistance may be warranted. This booklet is designed to acquaint you with Counseling Services and the Campus Assessment & Response Evaluation (CARE) Team, to assist you in helping students in distress and to guide you in making referrals to helping professionals. In addition, there is a section outlining suggestions for dealing with specific types of emotional problems.
Prevention is as important in mental health as in physical health. Often problems can be prevented from escalating if students talk to someone early. Thus, it is appropriate to refer students to Counseling Services for assistance with their everyday concerns as college students. We want to stress that we are here to provide assistance with the developmental, situational and adjustment problems common to many college students, as well as some of the more serious issues discussed in this guide.
An additional way UW-Whitewater intentionally and systematically assists students is through regular meetings of the CARE Team.
The purpose of the CARE Team is to:
CARE Team places a high priority on balancing our students’ rights to privacy with the University’s duty to respond appropriately to a student experiencing difficulty or expressing at-risk behaviors.
CARE Team is facilitated by the Dean of Student life and consists of:
Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact any member of the CARE Team to share information if a member of the faculty or staff feels outreach or follow-up may be of assistance to a student. For more information, contact the Dean of Student life.
Trauma or Crisis in Relationships
Unusual Behavior or Marked Change in Behavior
Problems with Academic Performance
Harmful Statements or Behaviors
The above list outlines behavioral changes or stressful events in students’ lives which may warrant counseling. The following sections address specific types of emotional concerns you may find when working with students. It is critical to remember that you may be a key source of support to a student, you cannot be expected to do it all. When you feel particularly concerned about a distressed student, please feel free to consult with Counseling Services staff, or encourage the student to seek help through our services.
Signs and Symptoms
Because we all experience some of the symptoms of depression at one time or another, we all have some personal knowledge of what the depressed student is going through. A depressed student is likely to be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
Facts about Suicide
It is important to take all suicidal comments seriously and to make appropriate referrals.
Less Helpful Responses:
This student may have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. To some extent, the person will appear confused or illogical.
You may notice that the student’s speech jumps from one topic to another with little or no logical connection between topics. This student may also pay a great deal of attention to some unimportant detail that is being discussed or may be generally scattered and incoherent. This student may coin new words and expect others to understand their meaning or may put works together because they rhyme, not because they make grammatical sense.
The student may make inappropriate emotional responses. For example, they may overreact to their feelings, or be very “flat” emotionally. Many times the person knows that their emotions are inappropriate, but just feels overwhelmed and cannot control them.
Someone in poor contact with reality may experience themselves as especially powerful or important or may believe that people are attempting to harm or control them in some way. They may also feel that certain actions have special meaning for them (e.g.- when people in a small group begin to laugh, then they are laughing at them.)
This student may experience hallucinations, usually auditory, although the hallucination can be experienced through any sense.
Less Helpful Responses:
Aggression can take many forms, from very subtle, passive acts to violent outbursts. It often results when a student perceives a threat, feels frustrated and/or out of control. Some aggressive people express hostility immediately without regard for their circumstances or the people around them. Others deny their anger and frustration until their hostility builds to the point of an explosive outburst. Many time, persons who are verbally or physically aggressive feel inadequate and use hostile behavior as a way to build up their self-esteem. Often these individuals believe you will reject them so they become hostile and reject you first to protect themselves from being hurt. They may see you as attempting to control them and lash out to try to gain some sense of control.
It is important to remember that the student is generally not angry at you personally, but is angry at their world and you are the handy target of pent-up frustrations.
Overall, dealing with an aggressive student will be handled best by maintaining a firm, consistent and calm control in the situation (i.e. know what you are doing and what your goals are).
Less Helpful Responses:
We have all experienced anxiety in response to a perceived stressful situation. Anxiety becomes heightened as the situation becomes more vague and less familiar.
A panic attack is an overwhelming sense of dread and fear, and is the extreme result of feeling anxious. Some of the physiological components of general anxiety and panic attacks are rapid heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, choking, dizziness, sweating, trembling or shaking, or cold, clammy hands. The student may experience feelings of worry or fear and may anticipate some misfortune. They may complain of poor concentration, being on edge, being easily distracted, memory problems, and/or fitful sleep. The student may also state unreasonably high self-expectations, and be very critical of their present performance. This student may constantly think about and discuss their problems and possible solutions, but be too fearful to take action.
Less Helpful Responses:
Any amount of time and energy may simply not be enough for some students. Such students often seek to control your time and unconsciously believe that the amount of time received is a reflection of personal worth. In many instances, these people feel incompetent to handle their own lives.
Less Helpful Responses:
Usually these students complain about something other than their psychological difficulties. They are tense, cautious, mistrustful, and have few friends. These students tend to interpret a minor oversight as significant personal rejection and often overreact to insignificant occurrences. They see themselves as the focal point of others’ behavior and everything that happens may seem to be interpreted in a suspicious light. Usually they are over-concerned with fairness and being treated equally. They project blame onto to others and will express anger in indirect ways. Many times they will feel worthless and inadequate.
Less Helpful Responses:
This document was adapted with permission from the
University of Maine Counseling Center
Last Updated: 11/07/18