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Referring Students in Need

How to Refer Students to Counseling and Other Student Services

When you believe that a student might benefit from Counseling service or another student service, speak directly to the student in a straightforward, matter-of-fact fashion, showing simple and concrete concern. Never trick or deceive. Make it clear that this recommendation represents your best judgment based on your observations of the student’s behavior. Be specific regarding the behaviors that have raised your concerns and avoid making generalizations or attributing anything negative to the individual’s personality or character.

Except in cases of life threat to self or others, the option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse a counseling referral. It is not uncommon for students to be anxious when being referred to a professional. If you have had positive feedback from other students about the student service, you could tell the student you have referred others there and that they found it helpful. If the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply express your acceptance of the feelings so that he or she feels free to reject the referral without rejecting you. Give the student room to consider alternatives by suggesting that perhaps you can talk about it later after the individual has had some time to think it over. If the student emphatically says “No,” then respect the decision and again leave the situation open should he or she decide to reconsider. Above all, do not rush. Unless it is a matter of clear urgency, go slowly.

If the student agrees to the referral, place the call to the Counseling Center right then, with the student present. In most cases the student can be seen within a week. If it appears to be an emergency, ask to speak directly to a counselor or to have your call returned as soon as possible. If appropriate, suggest to the student that with his or her permission you will give information to the counselor about the nature of the problem. Have the student write down the counselor’s name, address, extension, and the time and date of the appointment. Having a confirmed appointment sometimes makes the difference in whether or not the student goes to the appointment. Finally, follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest even if he or she did not accept the referral.

To Sum It Up

  1. Find out enough about the student’s problem to be able to make the best referral.
  2. Involve the student in the process. Deal with the feelings about the referral (i.e., objections, fears, etc.). It is better to have them discussed before the student leaves.
  3. Go slowly-except in an emergency, the student should be made aware that he or she has a choice to accept or refuse the referral.
  4. Be very specific in the referral (identify location, name of counselor, telephone number).
  5. See how much help the student needs in contacting the referral-some may need to be escorted over. On the other hand, try to let the person do as much for himself or herself as you can.
  6. Follow up! Even if the student did not accept your referral, following up at a later date will demonstrate your continued interest.

Finally, the referral process is one that should communicate to the student that (1) you are concerned about his or her well-being and (2) you consider the problem one which requires professional attention, which you are unable to provide. These two messages, effectively communicated, can determine the attitude with which the student enters counseling or another service. That attitude affects the progress and outcome of any psychological or educational intervention.

(Excerpted and adapted from Houston Baptist University Academic Advising Handbook, 1992)

Quick Referral Sheet

Campus ActivitiesBrealle Davis423.461.8735 
Campus MinistryRich Aubrey423.461.8748 
Career DevelopmentBeth Anderson423.461.8316Call Beth directly or use the Outlook meeting planner to set up an appointment.
Counseling CenterDr. Christine Browning423.461.8500To schedule an appointment, please contact the Milligan Counseling Center at 423.461.8500. Voicemails will be checked daily and calls returned within the next business day. Phone calls will not be returned on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) or holidays. In case of emergency, individuals in crisis are directed to call Frontier Health’s crisis response team at 877.928.9062 or 911.
Early AlertEmail423.794.3088Email Director of Student Success or go to the Early Alert form folder in Outlook public folders. Click on form icon, complete form by placing an X inside the parentheses, provide any additional comments, and email completed form to director.
Health Clinic 423.461.86679 a.m.– 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
Student Government 423.461.8752 
Residence LifeTony Jones423.461.8735