Making a referral to the Counselling Service: A guide for university staff
- Who can receive counselling?
- Do you have a student who you think might benefit from counselling?
- When might you refer a student for counselling?
- Responding to students with mental health difficulties or who may be suicidal
- How to make a referral
- How to contact the Counsellors
- What happens next?
- Supporting requests for extenuating circumstances
- Support for staff
Counselling is available to all students registered at the University.
The majority of students who come for counselling are self-referred but, as a member of staff, you may become aware that a particular student is experiencing personal or emotional difficulties, and be in a position to suggest that they seek help.
Sometimes noticing a student's distress or difficulties, and offering them a chance to talk to you about them may be all the help that is needed. However, you may feel that further, professional help is required. This could be when
· your support is not addressing the problem effectively
· the difficulty is beyond your pastoral responsibility or competences
· you feel that your relationship with the student is not adequately established or might be compromised in some way
The counsellors offer help to students with any personal issue that affects their learning performance or their quality of life whilst at university. Difficulties can cover a very broad range, and include: feeling generally unhappy and unable to get on with things; bereavement; shyness; feeling alone; difficulties in making and maintaining personal relationships; lack of self-esteem; family difficulties; worries about loss of control; general anxiety; depression; work-blocks or worries about exams; feelings related to sexual identity; getting over a shock, illness or accident; concerns about mental health. Students also come for counselling as part of their personal development: to become more assertive, for example, or to discuss an important decision. We see many students who are high achievers, as well as those struggling with their academic work.
A student's need for help may be expressed to you explicitly , or may be implicit in the way s/he talks about a problem. You may notice signs from a student's appearance or behaviour that s/he is experiencing difficulties. Such signs can include:
· marked changes in attendance, academic performance
· alterations in appearance such as weight change, decline in standard of dress or personal hygiene
· obvious changes in mood , including agitation, signs of withdrawal or reluctance
to engage with the rest of the group
· aggressive behaviour
· signs of alcohol or drug abuse
· changes in the attitudes of other students to the individual concerned
· physical symptoms (head-aches, insomnia, digestive problems) that may be psychosomatic in origin
Sometimes, the signs can be less obvious or clear-cut. Please do contact one of the counsellors if you wish to discuss whether or not to make a referral, or if you have any other query about doing so. You will find contact details below.
If you become concerned about a student's mental health, you will find advice on how to respond in the Guidelines for Helping Students with Mental Health and Emotional Difficulties. In particular, you should not disregard any feelings that you may have that a student may be suicidal. If a person talks about or alludes to suicide, and shows that they have given thought to how, when or where they might contemplate committing suicide, this has to be taken seriously, and you should follow the appropriate courses of action outlined in the guidelines. In such circumstances, if a student does not respond to your suggestions about the professional help that is required, the Counselling Service will make a consultation on the matter with you a priority.
When you believe that a student might benefit from professional counselling, it is best to be honest about your concern for his or her welfare, and to state your reasons for suggesting counselling. Then it is advisable to leave the decision up to them. Some people facing enormous personal difficulties prefer not to receive professional help; many do cope well with the support of family, friends, and fellow-students. Others may need time to decide.
A referral can be formal or informal. Usually, talking to a student about the availability of the Counselling Service and encouraging him or her to make contact will suffice. More rarely, a tutor will inform the Counselling Service of his or her concerns about a particular student, so that the counsellors are aware of the situation should the student decide to get in touch. It is, however, important for the counselling process that students take responsibility for making their own appointment with us.
Where appropriate, we can also provide information about other possible sources of help.
Consultation with a counsellor is always available to members of staff who feel that a student is in need of professional help but has placed the responsibility on the staff member by refusing to seek it.
The counsellors can be contacted as follows:
|Secretary to the Counselling Service 01227 783056|
If we cannot take your call in person, please leave a message on our voicemail and we’ll contact you as soon as we can.
We operate a system that ensures that a student will be seen for a first (assessment) interview within a few days of their initial enquiry. We also offer appointments on an emergency basis, and if you feel that this is necessary but are unable to contact a counsellor direct, details of available times are held by the Secretary to the Counselling Service (tel: 01227 783056 or email email@example.com). We have a policy of prioritising the most urgent cases.
We aim to respond to an initial request for counselling within 48 hrs, and (other than in cases of emergency) students are usually seen for a first (assessment) appointment within a week to ten days. Where necessary, the Counsellors are able to refer students with clinical symptoms for assessment and possible psychiatric support.
At the first meeting, we endeavour to gather enough information from the student about their problem(s) to enable us to identify and agree possible ways forward. When this involves on-going counselling, we will usually contract a specific number of sessions (probably up to 6). Occasionally, at the end of this initial contract, client and counsellor may agree that longer term work is required and counselling is continued. Sessions are usually weekly and last 50 minutes. The majority of our clients (80%) are seen for less than seven sessions.
At certain times of the academic year, the Counselling Service experiences increased demand and consequently students may have to wait for ongoing counselling.
We also offer group-work on specific issues (such as eating distress, and bereavement) from time to time, and preventative workshops and training on subjects such as assertiveness and stress management.
Details of these, and further information on the services we offer, together with practical advice on a number of common problems, can be found on the Counselling Service web pages.
The counsellors work within the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Ethical Framework. This requires that all consultations are totally confidential and that no information about a client can be provided without the client's express permission, except in circumstances where there is a clear danger to themselves or others, or in the case of certain court proceedings.
We do not, therefore, inform tutors who have referred a student to us of the outcome or progress of the counselling, and we would only communicate such information to a member of staff at the request, or with the permission, of the student concerned.
However, students do often recognise that it is in their interest for us to liaise with their tutors, and give us their consent to do so.
We are willing to provide evidence for students to pass to their lecturers, Personal Tutors, Programme Directors, Heads of Department and Examination Boards (via the Academic Registrar) in support of any request for concession they wish to make. However, we only do this for students who have reported difficulties with their academic work as a result of their problems, and only if their circumstances are known to us and they have received on-going counselling from us.
We can help staff with their responsibilities towards students and colleagues. You may have concerns about an individual student or group of students, or perhaps someone in your department. You are welcome to phone us or make an appointment to meet with one of us in person. Many staff have found it helpful to talk things through with an independent listener in a confidential setting.
We also have a longstanding interest in supporting staff in their role as Personal Tutors, and we are happy to respond to requests for help with training events and staff development programmes.
Practical advice on a number of common problems can be found on the University Counselling web site, together with contact details for other sources of support available to students within and outside of the University.
We would welcome your comments about these guidelines, or about the Counselling Service we provide. Please pass them on to us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org