If you choose to approach your student with your concerns about his or well-being, you might consider some of the following suggestions (adapted from The George Washington University's Counseling Center).
TALK to your student in private when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied. Give your student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help him or her feel cared about as an individual and more confident about what to do. If you have initiated the contact, express your concern inbehavioral, nonjudgmental terms. For example, "You said you've been absent from class lately and I'm concerned," rather than "Why haven't you been going to class? You should be more concerned about your grades."
LISTEN to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what your student has told you. Try to include both content and feelings ("It sounds like you're not accustomed to such a big campus and you're feeling left out of things.") Let your student talk.
GIVE HOPE. Assure your student that things can get better. It is important to help him or her realize there are options, and that things will not always seem hopeless. Suggest resources: friends, family, clergy, professionals on campus, other campus resources. You may not be able to solve your student's problems yourself, but you can assist him or her receive the help that is needed.
AVOID judging, evaluating, and criticizing even if your student asks your opinion. Such behavior may push the student away from you and from the help he or she needs. It is important to respect your student's value system, even if you don't agree with it.
REFER: A referral for counseling may be made when you your student's difficulties appear to go beyond your ability to help. In making a referral it is important to point out that: 1) help is available and 2) seeking such help is a sign of strength and courage rather than a sign of weakness or failure. It may be helpful to point out that seeking professional help for other problems (medical, legal, car problems, etc.) is considered good judgment and an appropriate use of resources. For example, "If you had a broken arm you would go to a doctor rather than try to set it yourself." If you can, prepare your student for what they might expect if they follow your suggestion. Tell them what you know about the referral person or services.
FOLLOW-UP with your student again to solidify his or her resolve to obtain appropriate help and to demonstrate your commitment to assist them in this process. Check later to see that the referral appointment was kept and to hear how it went. Provide support while your student takes further appropriate action or pursue another referral if needed.
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