Referring a Distressed Student

A Guide for Faculty and Staff

Stress is a normal part of a contemporary life. When it becomes unmanageable, stress can interfere with a student’s academic performance and social interactions. Many students seek help from faculty and staff whose interest and concern can help a student in distress regain the confidence needed to cope with University life. Faculty and staff can make a difference in the outcome of a student’s struggle for academic and social success; consequently, it is helpful to know when and how to refer a student to the URI counseling center.


Signs of Distress

  • Procrastination and poorly prepared work, especially if inconsistent with previous work.
  • Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed.
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, or frequent falling asleep in class.
  • Repeated requests for special considerations (e.g., deadline extensions).
  • Behavior which regularly disrupts class or student interaction.
  • Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme or for a long period of time (e.g., tearfulness).
  • High levels of irritability, including unruly, aggressive, violent or abrasive behavior.
  • Alcohol intoxication or behavior that suggests other drug abuse.
  • Impaired speech or garbled and disjointed thoughts.
  • Inability to make decisions, despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage.
  • Threats to others.
  • Overtly expressed suicidal thoughts.
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene.
  • Behavior that is obviously inappropriate for the situation (e.g., talking to invisible people).


Guidelines for Interaction

  • Talk to the student in a private setting.
  • Give the student your undivided attention; a few minutes of attentive listening provides encouragement.
  • Express Concern. Be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern.
  • Listen carefully to everything the student has to say.
  • Repeat the essence of what the student has told you so your attempts to understand are communicated.
  • Avoid criticizing of sounding judgmental.
  • Consider the URI Counseling Canter as a resource and, if appropriate, discus referral with the student.
  • If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact the Counseling Center to discuss your concern.


How to Refer a Student to the Counseling Center

  • Suggest that the student call 874-2288 or come to 217 Roosevelt Hall to make an appointment.
  • If you feel that the situation requires immediate attention, phone the Counseling Center, identify yourself, and tell the receptionist that you are referring a student.
  • In rare instances it may be helpful to accompany the student to the Counseling Center.
  • If you are concerned about a student and want to consult with a counselor, call the Counseling Center and ask to speak with the designated counselor for that day.
  • If the student is in danger to self or others, yet refuses a referral, call the Counseling Center to confer with a staff member. When the center is closed, call URI Health Services at 874-2264.


Services Provided by the Counseling Center

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Alcohol and other substance abuse counseling
  • Structured skill-building groups
  • Counseling of couples
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Medical and psychiatric referral
  • Consultation
  • Training and teaching


Arranging for Services

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students who wish to make an appointment with a counselor or who want program or testing information should call or come to the Counseling Center.



Information shared in counseling and/or testing situations is confidential and cannot be disclosed to any party outside of the URI Counseling Center without the clients prior written consent. Confidentiality may be broken only (a) if such disclosure is necessary to protect the client or someone else from imminent danger, (b) in cases of apparent ongoing child abuse, or (c) in those rare instances when the courts subpoena counseling records. These exceptions to complete confidentiality are mandated by Rhode Island state law. If you wish to know whether or not a student accepted your referral, you can ask that the Information Release Form be signed at the time the student sees the counselor. The counselor will then provide you with appropriate feedback.

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