The purpose of this section is to assist faculty members in their efforts to enhance the educational and personal achievements of students. Included is information about ways in which the Center for Counseling and Student Development might lend assistance. Suggestions are offered regarding the most effective ways to refer students for help.
Most students experience significant changes in their lives while in college. They may leave their homes, communities, and even familiar cultures to come to Newark and live somewhat independently, often for the first time. All students must manage the special challenges of academic life. Undergraduate students typically confront important educational, career, and personal decisions while developing a personal identity that marks their maturation from adolescents to young adults. Returning adult students often have to cope with the competing demands of family, work and college. Graduate students may experience stress from all of these sources. Under such difficult circumstances, students may seek the assistance of others.
While many students handle these transitions by themselves or with family and friends, a growing number want or need help beyond what their support systems provide. For many years at the Center we have seen a steady demand from students for counseling services. Last year over 1,862 students (or approximately 9.5% of the full-time undergraduate and graduate student population) came to the Center for help. Longitudinal studies have shown that approximately one in four students in every graduating class have used the counseling services provided by the Center during their tenure at the University. There is also evidence to suggest that non-traditional students and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities may have unique difficulties in adjusting to the University. For these students, counseling services may be especially helpful.
The number of requests for consultation from faculty members has increased dramatically over the past several years. The Center welcomes this concern from faculty members for the well-being of the students and offers the following information for guidance.
What is the role of the faculty in assisting students who have problems?
The stress of academic, social, family, work, and/or financial concerns are often interrelated and may result in a student turning to faculty members for help. In fact, anyone who is perceived as knowledgeable, caring, and trustworthy may be a potential resource in times of trouble.
Faculty members are often in a good position to identify students who are troubled. Timely expressions of interest and concern may be critical factors in helping students solve problems that are interfering with academic survival and success.
When to refer?
Not every student needs professional counseling. Sometimes simply listening and offering encouragement and empathy can help a student feel understood. If you want to let a student know that his or her concerns are normal and expected, be sure not to minimize the problems in doing so. What is a simple solution in your view may be harder to imagine for another person.
If distressing circumstances are affecting a student’s well-being or ability to make satisfactory academic progress, a referral for counseling may be in order. Referrals are usually indicated in the following situations:
- A student presents a problem or requests information which is outside your range of knowledge;
- You feel that personality differences which cannot be resolved between you and the student will interfere with your efforts to help the student;
- The problem is personal, and you know the student on other than a professional basis (friend, neighbor, relative, etc.);
- A student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason;
- You do not believe your counseling with the student has been effective.
How to refer?
When a faculty member determines that a student might benefit from professional counseling, it is usually best that the student be spoken to in a direct, straight-forward fashion in which concern for his or her welfare is shown. It is recommended that faculty make it clear that this suggestion represents his/her best judgment based on observations of the student’s behavior. Specific feedback about behaviors of concern is recommended. Above all, it is not advisable to attempt to deceive or trick the student into seeking counseling.
Except in emergencies, the option must be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If the student is skeptical or reluctant, simply express your acceptance of those feelings so that your own relationship with the student is not jeopardized. Give the student an opportunity to consider other alternatives by suggesting that he or she might need some time to think it over. If the student emphatically says “no,” then respect that decision, and again leave the situation open for possible reconsideration at a later time.
If the student agrees to the referral, you may call the Center for Counseling and Student Development (831-2141) to make an appointment. In some cases, the student will prefer to make the appointment. In either case, the student’s first contact with the Center will be a screening interview in which the student and the intake counselor make decisions about the type of help needed. Intake appointments are usually scheduled within a day or two of the student’s request to be seen at the Center. Students requiring immediate help are seen on an emergency basis. You should follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest even if he or she did not accept your attempted referral.
What about confidentiality?
It is important for members of the University community to understand that the interviews conducted at the Center are confidential in nature. Information about those interviews or the content of such interviews cannot be released except upon a student’s written request, in circumstances which would result in clear danger to the individual or others, or as may be required by law. The Center for Counseling and Student Development adheres very strictly to this policy.
If a faculty member is interested in a student’s contact with the Center, information can best be obtained directly from the student. It should be noted that students are not bound by the same promises of confidentiality that professional psychologists are obliged to keep.
In some instances, a student may want the Center to share certain information with a faculty member. This can be done by the student giving the Center a written authorization which specifies the purpose and the content of such a disclosure.
Eligibility for services
All students who pay the Student Health Fee are eligible for psychological counseling and/or psychiatric services. Both the counseling and psychiatric services of the Center are intended to provide short-term assistance to students in dealing with personal, career, and educational concerns which may be barriers to their academic progress.
After an initial assessment of a student’s concerns, the psychologists and/or psychiatrists will determine if an individual’s needs may best be met by the Center’s services or are beyond the scope of those services. In the latter cases, such individuals will receive a referral to other sources of assistance, on or off-campus.
The Center does not provide forensic services that involve litigation or require court testimony.
How does career counseling relate to academic advisement?
The Center for Counseling and Student Development, in conjunction with the Bank of America Career Services Center, offers a wide variety of career development services to University students. The Center attempts to help students make realistic assessments of their interests, values, and abilities and gain useful information about academic majors and the world of work. The Career Services Center offers students the opportunity to participate in experiential education programs and part-time employment opportunities, as well as to learn how to conduct an actual job search. In no circumstances will the professional personnel of either unit engage in academic advisement of undergraduate students. At the University, faculty members or other specially trained personnel act as advisors for undergraduate students. Students who come to the Center seeking such advisement are referred to faculty members, academic departments, and/or various advisement centers on campus.
Why might counseling be suggested to a student?
People seek counseling for many reasons, ranging from a wish to solve a long-standing problem to a desire to enhance their personal growth. To address the personal, educational and career concerns of the students, the Center offers both group and individual counseling. Students come in to discuss issues such as: roommate conflicts, anxiety and stress management, depression, eating disorders, career choices, and family concerns such as divorce and alcoholism. Students may also receive psychiatric services if medication is considered essential to the treatment of their concerns.
Here are some of the common instances when counseling might be recommended to a student:
- Fundamental or traumatic changes in personal relationships — such as death of a family member or friend, divorce or separation in the family, pregnancy, etc.
- Significant changes in mood or behavior — such as withdrawal from others, asocial activity (e.g., lying, stealing) spells of unexplained crying or outbursts of anger, or unusual agitation.
- References to suicide — since it is difficult to distinguish between serious threats or passing idle thoughts of suicide, judgment about the seriousness of a situation is best made in consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Anxiety and depression — these are two of the more common symptoms which can significantly impair a student’s functioning.
- Psychosomatic symptoms — concerns such as tension headaches, loss of appetite or excessive eating, insomnia or excessive sleeping or chronic stomach distress, etc.
- Alcohol and drug abuse — evidence of excessive drinking, drug abuse or drug dependence is almost always indicative of psychological problems.
- Career choice concerns — often these concerns reflect the student’s struggle to understand him/herself and the world of work. Sometimes it reflects a problem with decision-making in general.
- Concern about academics — such as contemplating dropping out of school, worrying about possible academic failure, or considering a transfer to another school.
Are counseling services available to faculty and/or staff?
While the Center for Counseling and Student Development does not provide on-going counseling services for University employees, the professional staff will meet with such individuals one time to assess a concern or problem and make an appropriate referral to another source of help.