When to Refer
There are two primary reasons for making a referral. The first involves a problem or situation which requires the services of a more appropriate resource or agency. In this case, you as the helper will need to determine specifically what information or assistance the student is seeking and where the student is most likely to find that information or assistance. The second reason occurs when the helper is unable to deal effectively with the studentís presenting issues. It is not always easy to determine when problems are severe enough to warrant professional referral and intervention. Should you need additional clarification, please arrange to speak with a counselor at the Counseling Center.
General Guidelines for Referral
- If you perceive the problem to be beyond your expertise, i.e., one for which your knowledge, training, and/or experience is inadequate, it is best to refer the student.
- Assess previous attempts you or the student has made to alleviate the symptoms or rectify the problem. If no progress is demonstrable, refer the student.
- If you and/or the student are uncomfortable in dealing with the problem, refer the student.
How to Refer
- First and foremost, become familiar with university and community resources and the kinds of services they provide.
- Listen carefully to the studentís stated concerns and be sensitive to those that may underlie the presenting problem (issues that are unstated, brushed aside, or intimated).
- Be aware of additional indicators of a problem: poor grades, frequent absences; withdrawn or isolating behaviors; expressed hostility toward teachers, parents, friends, or others; major and/or career uncertainty; complaints of loneliness; references to hopelessness and/or suicidal thoughts.
- Communicate your understanding of the student's feelings, acknowledging behavior you have observed ("You've been missing a lot of classes lately. What is happening with you right now?")
- Avoid arguments with the person, attempts to convince the person of your point-of-view, and touching of the person. Instead respond with warmth, kindness, and clarity, using a firm but calm approach.
- Explore student's previous attempts at resolution: what steps have already been taken, what resources have been utilized, what persons or agencies have been contacted. Ask about the outcome of such actions.
- Discuss the possibility of referral with the student (see list of referral sources). Be honest and direct about your limitations. Avoid judgmental language or vocabulary with negative implications ("You're in bad shape. You ought to see a shrink.")
- Propose the referral in a direct and positive manner. Present accurate and specific information as to what services are provided, what kind of help can be expected. If appropriate, refer to a specific person or persons (personalizing the referral may establish a greater sense of safety for the student).
- Solicit the student's response to the suggested referral: "What do you think about the idea? How does that feel to you?" (allows for examination of feelings, potential for follow-through).
- If the student agrees to be referred, invite the student to make the appointment while in your office. If the student seems reluctant to do so but glad to have you offer, and if you are comfortable with doing so, make the appointment and note for him/her the date, time, location, and person with whom he/she will be meeting. Do not disclose confidential information to the referral source without written permission from the student.
- If you are concerned about the seriousness or urgency of the problem despite the studentís unwillingness to be referred, please call the Counseling Center for consultation.
- It is important to keep written documentation of your efforts to refer the student for future reference. Note date and action taken or recommended.
- If the student maintains contact with you after the referral, continue to be supportive, but be careful to maintain confidentiality and to stay within your realm of responsibility (e.g., academic needs, financial problems, health concerns).
- New Mexico State University Counseling Center
- Hours: Monday—Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Garcia Annex, Room 100
- MSC 3575/ P.O. Box 30001, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001