How and When to Refer Students for Counseling

A Practical Guide for Staff and Faculty

Behavior Changes

  • Any overt expression of thought or intent to harm self or others, including pets
  • Change in demeanor…student is more quiet or more aggressive, mood appears sad, "low," irritable, agitated, anxious or restless
  • Negative change in quality of work or performance in class, on assignments, in athletics or other types of performance
  • Missed assignments or appointments
  • Disorganized or erratic performance that is uncharacteristic of the student
  • Essays, art or other creative work that contains themes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, despair

Physical Changes

  • Deterioration of physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue " Diminished or greatly increased appetite (visible changes in weight)
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Appearing bleary-eyed or smelling of alcohol

Personality Changes

  • Direct statements indicating distress, family problems or other difficulties
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Irritability or constant anxiety
  • More withdrawn or more animated than usual
  • Persistent sadness or tearfulness
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness.

"At Risk" Factors

  • Essays or papers that focus on despair, suicide or death
  • Statements to the effect that student is "going away for a long time"
  • Giving away possessions
  • Severe depression
  • Self-injurious or self-destructive behavior
  • Other behavior that appears out of control

Other Factors to Consider

  • Drop in grades
  • Personal losses: e.g., death of family member, loved one; break-up of a relationship
  • Failures in class, athletics or other types of performance; rejection
  • Expressions of concern about a student by peers
  • Your own hunch or 'gut' reaction that something is wrong

What to Do

Make contact: Tell the student you need to see him or her; talk with the student in person.
Calmly express your concern; tell the student you are worried and why.


Some Possibilities

  • "In your essay, you write about death and dying. It seems to me that you've looked sad lately. I wanted to check in with you and see if everything's OK."

  • "You haven't seemed yourself lately. You've been missing class (assignments) and I wondered if there's something getting in the way of your being here (completing the homework)."

  • "This is really a difficult time for you. WE can figure this out. WE can get some help from a counselor who knows more about this. Let's walk down there together (phone the Counseling Center). I think they'll be able to help."

Be aware of your role and what you can do to help the student. For example, you can express your concern. You can listen and be supportive, help with decision-making and make referrals.

Be aware of your limitations. You are faculty/staff and you do not have to assume the role of counselor. You can let the student know that you care and will, therefore, make the referral to counseling.

You might escort the student to our office (Library North 1202) or call (607-777-2772).

Other Resources

Emergency Transportation

  • Harpur's Ferry Ambulance Service: 607-777-3579

Medical Services

  • UHS Binghamton General Hospital: 607-762-2302 (24 hrs.)
  • Decker Student Health Services Center: 607-777-2221

Counseling Services

  • University Counseling Center: 607-777-2772
  • High Hopes: 607- 777-HELP
  • Crime Victims Assistance Center: 607-722-4256 (24 Hrs)

Law Enforcement

  • NYS University Police: 607-777-2393 or 911 (campus phone)
  • Town of Vestal Police: 607-754-2111
  • City of Binghamton Police: 607-723-5321
  • Village of Johnson City Police: 607-729-9321

Other Campus Services

  • Dean of Students: 607-777-2804
  • Ombudsman: 607-777-2388
  • Student Conduct: 607-777-6210
  • Services for Students with Disabilities: 607-777-2686

Community Services

  • Psychology Clinic (Psychology Dept.): 607-777-2103
  • Social Anxiety Program - 607-777-5006
  • Mood Disorders Institute - 607-777-3304

Last Updated: 8/13/14