The Counseling and Testing Center (CTC) staff are dedicated to helping you refer distressed students to our services. Faculty and staff members often have a close, ongoing relationship with students who may be overwhelmed or experiencing emotional distress. In this special role, it often can be challenging to be the main source of support for a distressed student. It is important to know your own limitations in providing assistance and to understand when to refer a student on for more intensive help.
Please remind the student counseling services have a one time $20.00 charge, provide confidential services, and maintain confidential records which are kept separate from other departments on campus. Western Kentucky University CTC also works closely with other department on campus to provide psychological testing, accommodations, and medication referrals. We can see students in crisis the same day and often schedule appointments within 24-48 hours for non-crisis students.
If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact the Counseling and Testing Center (270-745-3159) to discuss your concern
When referring students, consider the following guidelines.
- Approach students in a non-judgmental way. If they have been missing class or assignments
- “I’ve noticed you’ve been falling behind. I’m concerned about how you are doing.” rather than “You are going to fail my class. Why are you not doing your work?”
- Talk to the student in private. It can be embarrassing for the student to talk to you if other students might hear or judge them. Try to find a time when neither of you are rushed or preoccupied.
- Do not attempt to refer students when they are so upset or confused they cannot understand or listen to you. Wait until they have calmed down enough to be able to respond to your suggestions.
- Listen to students in a non-judgmental way. Students look up to you as an authority
figure. It can be helpful to repeat back what they are saying with a focus on both
the content and feeling behind what they are saying. Try:
- “It sounds like you are not used to this much work in such a short period of time and you are worried about not getting it all done.”
- “It sounds like you’re not used to such a big campus and you’re feeling left out of things”.
- Don’t ignore strange behavior. Comment directly on what you have observed.
- Never discuss your concerns with other students. If you need to talk about your concerns, consult with the CTC staff.
- Help the student see other options—that there are professionals on campus ready to help
- If you feel that the student is in crisis, you can call CTC or have the student call from your office. Tell the CTC staff member this is an "emergency" and she/he will connect you with a counselor immediately. If needed, the student can be seen for a crisis appointment that day.
- If a student seems reluctant, offer to walk with him/her to the CTC and introduce him/her to a counselor. Remind the student that s/he can speak to a counselor without any obligation to continue.
Not sure if you should refer a student? Look for these signs…
Academic Problems: drop in grades, missed assignments, unorganized or erratic performance, continual seeking of special accommodations (late papers, extensions…), essays of creative work that indicates extremes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage or despair, inability to make decisions despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage
Concerning Behaviors: tearfulness, agitation or anger, expression of worthlessness or hopelessness, expression of concern by other classmates, direct statements indicating distress, family problems or that something is wrong, student is more withdrawn or more animated than usual, bizarre behavior that is obviously inappropriate for the situation (e.g., talking to something/someone that is not present).
Physical Signs: deteriorations in physical appearance, visible changes in weight, lack of personal hygiene (consistent smell), impaired speech and disjointed thoughts, coming to class hung-over or smelling of alcohol, listlessness, lack of energy, or frequently falling asleep in class
Direct Statements: Any written note or verbal statement that has a sense of finality or mentions suicide, statements that are threatening or suggest they “are going away for a long time”, severe depression, self-injurious behaviors (e.g., cutting self, hiding cuts), bizarre or out of control behavior, essays or papers that focus on despair, suicide or death.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Coming to class or a meeting when intoxicated or high is a sign that drug and/or alcohol abuse is a serious problem. Often people drink or take drugs as a way to cope with and alleviate other problems in their life. Unfortunately, the substance abuse itself becomes a problem, one that interferes with social, academic, and work functioning.
Academic Problems: Students who have noticeable negative changes in their academic performance also may be feeling overwhelmed with other areas of their lives. Some students come to classes with difficulty concentrating, performing well on exams, and achieving academically. If the possibility of a learning disability exists, a counselor can meet with a student for a consultation appointment to discuss evaluation and treatment options.
Suicide: Students who talk about suicide or seem depressed should be asked directly about their intentions. Do not ignore student who talk about “not wanting to be around” or avoid asking questions out of fear you might give them ideas about killing themselves. Most people who are suicidal will answer these questions.
Are counseling services available to faculty and staff?
While the CTC does not provide ongoing counseling services for WKU employees, counselors will meet with such individuals to assist in assessing a concern or problem and making an appropriate referral to another source of help. WKU provides an Employee Assistance Program for all employees and their family members. Comppsych provides these services through local psychologists and counselors in the Bowling Green area. Employees can call 877-327-4753 for an appointment. WKU’s company ID is ZB3042Q.
Whom to contact for assistance?
If you have questions or are uncertain about a student, please contact one of the resources listed below. Each of these agencies serves as consultants and resource persons to faculty and staff:
Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs – 442 Potter Hall – (270) 745-2791
Office of Judicial Affairs – 431 Potter Hall – (270) 745-5429
University Police Department – 1603 Avenue of Champions – 270-745-2548 (or 911 from a campus phone)
Counseling and Testing Center – 409 Potter Hall – 270-745-3159
- American Counseling Association
- American Psychological Association
- Barren River Area Safe Space
- Hope Harbor Sexual Assault Prevention
- Kentucky Alcoholics Anonymous
- Kentucky Board for Professional Counselors
- Kentucky Psychological Association
- Medical Center of Bowling Green
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- QPR Institute
- Suicide Prevention Research Center