Counseling Referrals

The following are basic thoughts about the referral process that are essential for persons working in the helping professions, and thus are also very important guidelines for anyone concerned with helping others.  Many times, help that might have been given to a student was never received because of a poorly made referral.

When to Refer

  • When a student presents a problem or a request for information which is beyond your level of competency.
  • When you feel that personality differences (which cannot be resolved) between you and the student will interfere with his or her effective progress.
  • If the problem is personal and you know the student on other than a professional basis (friend, neighbor, etc.).
  • If the student is reluctant to discuss his/her problem with you for some reason.
  • If, after a period of time, you do not believe your communication with a student has been effective……

Don’t wait until it is too late for anyone to help!!  

Who to Refer

Contrary to popular belief, people in the helping professions, including counselors, consider a referral as an indication of competency on the part of the person making the referral rather than as an inadequacy.  Anyone able to identify situations needing specialized counseling or advising deserves commendation.  In addition, referring a student to the office appropriate to the problem demonstrates to the student that you have his or her best interests at heart.

How to Refer    

Suggest in a caring, concerned, and forthright manner that the student talk with a trained counselor.

Listed below is information about Student Counseling Services that might calm some student’s fears about coming:

  • The service is free to all students.
  • Confidentiality is respected, to the limits provided by the law and court.  See Confidentiality.
  • No record of a student’s use of Student Counseling Services is made on a transcript, job placement file, or administrative file.  See Confidentiality.
  • Information cannot be released without the student’s permission (the usual exception being cases of imminent harm and danger to the student or others).

While it is ordinarily desirable to refer a student to a specific person rather than to an “office”, the Student Counseling Services is unable to assure a student that he or she will be able to see a specific counselor if there is such a preference.

The reason is that each of the staff, from time to time, has full appointment schedules.  Because of this fact, it is important that the secretary be the person called, since she knows about each counselor’s availability.  If you consider the situation to be a serious one warranting immediate intervention, then tell the secretary that this is an “emergency” situation.  Emergencies or “crises” are responded to immediately.

Give the student the telephone number (936-261-3564) and location (Student Counseling Services second floor of Owens-Franklin Health Center), or better yet, give him/her the opportunity to use your phone to set up his/her own appointment.  If a student makes his/her own appointment, he/she will have a sense of responsibility for his/her own welfare, which is always very important.  See Appointments.

If you have information about the student that you feel is important to share with the counselor, don’t transmit it in front of the student.  This may give him/her the feeling that his or her particular problem is becoming known to everyone on campus.  Always, secure the student’s permission to give information about him/her to the counselor who will assist him/her.

When the student has returned from the counseling session, don’t pump him/her for information.  Generally, if you inquire as to whether or not the student kept the appointment, the student will volunteer whatever information is necessary to continue your relationship.

The person making the referral cannot expect to be provided with the details of treatment, nor share the confidences given by the student to the counselor.  You can consult on how best to interact with this person in future relationships.  Always feel free to call the Student Counseling Services for this consultation.

Don’t expect the immediate resolution of particular symptoms or problems.  Changing basic attitudes and feelings, learning to handle everyday problems, or improving academic performance may be a process that moves slowly.

Finally, RESPECT THE INDIVIDUAL.  The basic approach to all counseling and referrals is one of fundamental respect for the individual and the belief that it is best for that person to work out his/her problems in his/her own way.  You and the counselor are helpers in this process by providing a variety of alternatives for assistance on the student’s own terms.  He/she may choose to ignore or accept the help available.  Your role is to see that he/she becomes aware of this help and has the maximum opportunity to utilize it.

*Author – Dr. Wade Birch, Former Director of the Student Counseling Service at Texas A&M University.

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