How and When to Refer

As a member of the faculty or staff here at MGA, or as a family member of a student, you are constantly interacting with students. At times you may encounter students who are in crisis situations or who are under inordinate amounts of stress. You are more likely to see these students around mid-term and final exam periods. 

What to Look For

There are also some clear signs that a person may need professional help. These include:

  • Moodiness: Feelings of helplessness, depression, social isolation and withdrawal. Suicidal thoughts may be indicated by some seemingly nonchalant statement like, "it just doesn't seem worth it anymore."
  • Problems with School: Poor classroom performance or erratic attendance. These may signal a deeper, non-academic problem, especially if it is inconsistent with the student's previous record.
  • Inability to Concentrate, Constant Worrying or Anxiety: Being easily distracted, fidgety, and shaky; having memory distortions or lapses, having trouble sleeping.
  • Anti-Social Behavior: Verbal or physical aggression, being "out of control", difficulty communicating or relating to others, demanding so much of your time and attention that you feel uncomfortable or irritated.
  • Change in Physical Appearance, Mood or Behavior: These include sudden weight gain or loss, loss of interest in physical appearance or schoolwork, and mood changes, including a sudden lifting of depression.
  • Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse: Indications of excessive drinking, drug abuse or drug dependence.
  • Other Common Warning Signs of Student Distress 

Academic Problems

  • Excessive procrastination
  • Uncharacteristically poor preparation or performance
  • Repeated requests for extensions or special considerations
  • Disruptive classroom behavior
  • Career or course indecision
  • Excessive absence or tardiness
  • Avoiding or dominating discussions
  • References to suicide or homicide in verbal statements or writing 

Interpersonal Problems

  • Asking instructor for help with personal problems
  • Dependency on advisor
  • Hanging around office
  • Avoidance of advisor
  • Disruptive Behavior
  • Inability to get along with others
  • Complaints from other students 

Behavioral Problems

  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Frequently falling asleep in class
  • Irritability
  • Unruly behavior
  • Impaired speech
  • Disjointed thoughts
  • Tearfulness
  • Intense emotion
  • Inappropriate responses
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physically harming self 

If you have noticed any of these warning signs, you are faced with the decision of whether or not to intervene.  Although your faculty appointment is demanding, your interest in your student’s well-being can make an important difference to a person in distress.  If you decide to make an intervention, here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to the student privately to help minimize embarrassment and defensiveness.
  • It is helpful to use "I" statements rather than "you" statements.
  • Tell the student why you think counseling would be helpful and make it clear that this recommendation represents your best judgment based on the student's behavior.
  • Tell them a few facts about Counseling Services. For instance, all services are free to enrolled students.
  • Avoid making promises to keep information shared confidential. 
  • Listen carefully to the student and respond to both the content and the emotion of the situation.
  • Discuss your observations and perceptions of the situation directly and honestly with the student.
  • Express your concern in a non-judgmental way.  Respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree with it.
  • Help the student identify options for action and explore the possible consequences.
  • Be frank with the student about the limits of your ability to help them and let them know that you can help them get to experts who can help them address their concerns.
  • If the student appears to be in imminent danger of hurting self or others, contact Counseling Services or the campus police immediately.  Do not promise to keep threats to self or others secret. 

If the student agrees to the referral you can offer to walk the student over to Counseling Services to set up their Intake Appointment. Finally, you should follow up with the student at a later date to show your continued interest even if he/she did not accept your attempted referral.  In emergency situations involving students who are unwilling or unable to seek help on their own, you may call Counseling Services, The Office of the Dean of Students, or the campus police. 

How to make a refferral

  • If the emergency occurs within Counseling Services business hours (Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-5:30p.m. or Fridays 8am-noon) call 478.471.2985 and ask to speak to a Counseling Services therapist. 
    • Provide the therapist with a description of the situation that has led to your concern.
    • The therapist will advise you of appropriate actions to take to most effectively help the student. 
  • If the emergency occurs outside of Counseling Services business hours, call Campus Police. This is appropriate if the student or another person is in immediate danger, or when you believe the student is out of control.
    • Macon: 478.471.2414
    • Cochran: 478.934.3002
    • Warner Robins: 478.929.6750
    • Eastman: 478.374.6403
    • Dublin: 478.274.7751
  • For students who may need additional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

Non-emergency referrals

  • Speak to the student in a direct, concerned, straightforward manner.
  • Because many students initially resist the idea of counseling, be caring but firm in stating counseling would be helpful. Also be clear about the reasons that you are concerned.
  • Encourage the student to contact Counseling Services directly to schedule an initial appointment.
  • Offer to let the student call from your office if you believe they may need extra support and encouragement.
  • It might be helpful to share with the student that Counseling Services is staffed by licensed therapists, and that our services are freeand confidential.
  • In some situations, you may find it wise to walk the student over to Counseling Services. 

What to expect

The First Visit
Students can stop by Counseling Services anytime during our business hours to schedule their first appointment and get the process of counseling started.  The first appointment is called an Intake and during this meeting, the counselor will help the student define the problem, take a thorough history, and help the student clarify goals for counseling.

Confidentiality Guidelines
Once you have made a referral, it is normal to want to know what happened and how you can continue to help the student.  However, the Counseling Services staff are bound by the principles of confidentiality as defined by our disciplines and by federal and state laws.

That means:

  • We cannot give information about the student without written permission from the student.
  • With the student’s permission, we CAN let you know that s/he has come in for the appointment, however, due to confidentiality, we cannot discuss specifics of the student’s situation.
  • We CAN answer your general questions about making referrals to Counseling Services.
  • We CAN provide other referral ideas.
  • We CAN take information from you regarding specific behaviors of the student.
For more information, please see our page about Expectations.  Thank you for your concern for students and for being willing to go the extra mile when it is clear that one of our students is in distress.  The Counseling Services staff is glad to serve as a resource to you as you help students.