Most troubled students who come to the Counseling and Wellness Center do so on their own. However, sometimes, they are referred by others. Faculty and staff members who have frequent contact with students are often in an excellent position to identify troubled students and assist them in obtaining appropriate help. A student might directly confide his or her concerns to you, another student might share concerns about a classmate or roommate, or through observing the student’s behavior, you might infer that he or she is emotionally distressed. The following guidelines about referring students to the Counseling Center may be helpful.
The Center publishes a booklet, “Recognizing and Helping Students in Distress: A Guide for Faculty, Staff and Administration to Assist Students in Need at Trinity.” Click the title to download a copy online, or call the Counseling and Wellness Center (860-297-2415) to request a PDF version be emailed to you.
Counseling and Wellness Center Services and Staff
The Counseling and Wellness Center provides a full range of counseling and psychological services to all students who desire assistance in coping with personal and emotional difficulties and social relationships. The Center therapists are also available to consult with staff and faculty members on how to deal with emotionally distressed and/or distressing students. The Center is staffed by four licensed psychologists, Dr. Randolph Lee, Director, Dr. Kristine A. Kennen, Dr. Kate Marinchak, and Dr. Sarah Kopencey, two licensed clinical social workers, T’Kai Howard and Erica Ronald, and two advanced graduate students in the doctoral training program from the University of Hartford Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, Rebekah Page and Meg Fallon. We also have medication consultations available for students who are in active therapy with one of the members of the Center staff.
We are located at 135 Allen Place, most easily accessible from the rear of the Campus Safety parking lot. Our telephone number is 860-297-2415. To make an appointment a student may call our office between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and Ms. Kate Morrell, our office manager, will help to set up an appointment. It is requested that students contact us directly to arrange an appointment. They will feel more committed if they do so, and are more likely to show up for the appointment they make. In some instances, you might remain with the student while they make the phone call to set the appointment or you may accompany the student to the Counseling and Wellness Center if there is an urgency and you wish to make sure they physically make contact with us.
We sometimes get calls from students or faculty on students’ behalf requesting a specific counselor. While this is always done with the best intentions, there are often reasons, for example, scheduling issues, or conflict of interests with friends of a student who may be seeing one of the staff, that may not be apparent why we may think it wise to schedule someone with a different therapist than the one you suggest. While we try to be as responsive as possible, we ask your understanding letting us make the decision about who will see a student. Of course we value your input about this issue, but there may be other reasons which we can not discuss with you for a different choice.
Our services are free, and all contact with members of the staff is privileged and confidential as provided by federal and state law. Information about whether a student is in counseling, and information communicated to the Counseling and Wellness Center staff by a student cannot be disclosed to anyone outside the Center without written consent from the student. Except in the case of clear and imminent danger to self or others, no information will be transmitted to anyone inside or outside the College without the written consent of the student. If you have expressed concern for the well-being of a student whom you have referred to the Center, most often simply following up with the student and asking if they saw someone will provide you with the confirmation that they are seeking services.
Distressed vs. Distressing Students
It may be helpful to clarify the difference between students who are in emotional distress from those whose behavior is distressing to others. Students who are in distress are experiencing emotional pain, which may be generated by internal or external factors. A distressed student may appear highly distracted, publicly tearful, withdrawn, anxious, irritable, hypersensitive, may be missing classes or may openly state they are having problems. Distressed students may be referred to our office and generally find counseling helpful in addressing their concerns.
Students who are distressing, on the other hand, are those who cause distress for other people (e.g., instructors, classmates, administrators, roommates), due to their inappropriate behavior. Examples of such behaviors include disruptive outbursts in class, inappropriate expressions of anger, threats of harm to self or others, etc. It is appropriate for faculty and/or staff to alert their department heads and/or the Dean of Students office regarding these students if approaching them directly and expressing concern does not seem possible.
The most complicated situations involve students who are both distressed and distressing. Sometimes they may not be fully aware of how they are being perceived by others or how their behavior impacts others. These students should also receive appropriate intervention through their department and/or the Dean of Students Office. The Counseling Center is available for consultations regarding the possible need for psychological intervention. These students should also be encouraged to seek counseling. When working with these challenging students it is important to seek consultation and to know your own limits. The Counseling Center can help provide you with some helpful consultation.
When and How to Intervene
Students may reveal to you directly that they are emotionally distressed or you may simply notice that there have been changes in their behavior that indicate some distress. Depending on how you become aware of the problems, you may or may not choose to approach the student. This decision depends on such factors as what behaviors are concerning you, how troubled the student seems to be, your relationship with him or her, how approachable the student seems to be, as well as your personality style and feelings about intervening.
If you believe the student might be open to discussing her/his concerns with you, generally the best approach involves letting the student know that you’ve noticed that she/he seems upset lately, and you’re interested in helping him or her if they wish to talk to you about it. Keep your comments “open-ended” rather than asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes or no” response.
Be aware that some students may reject your efforts, may deny any troubles, and/or may feel intruded upon. Generally speaking, most students will feel appreciative of your interest and concern and your contact with them might be an important step toward their dealing with their problems. If you have questions or concerns about approaching a particular student, feel free to call the Counseling and Wellness Center for help.
Responding to Students Who Confide in You
The most appropriate response to students who disclose their personal concerns to you is to:
- Listen attentively.
- Empathize with the feelings being expressed. Try to understand what the student is saying from his/her perspective (which does not mean you have to agree with that perspective).
- Be as genuinely supportive as feels appropriate to you.
- Keep your own limits in mind; for example, don’t get more involved in the student’s life than is comfortable.
- Except in cases where you may reasonably suspect that there is a potential for self harm or danger to others, a student has the right to refuse treatment.
- When you sense reluctance encourage the use of the Counseling Center, by suggesting that others have found it helpful, it’s free and easy to get an appointment and they may want to at least try going for one session.
Check back with the student to see if they are doing better, especially when they have declined the initial suggestion of treatment.
Remember, whenever you are in doubt, the therapists at the Counseling and Wellness Center are available for consultation. This can be done over the telephone or in person. Feel free to call upon us with your concerns. You as faculty are a valuable referral resource and we want to work with you in any way we can.
We are also available for in-service workshops to faculty groups on a variety of topics.