Dear Colleague,

The following guidelines for assisting emotionally distressed students have been prepared by the staff of Counseling and Psychological Services. We hope that the information on recognizing students who are experiencing emotional distress and on referring them to our services will help you respond to students you teach and advise. Our staff of licensed psychologists and pre-doctoral trainees are here to assist students with a wide range of concerns whether it be for crisis intervention or brief counseling.

We appreciate the referrals we get from faculty and are happy to consult with you regarding your concerns about particular students. Further, we can provide in-class guest lectures on issues that may be relevant to your courses or of concern to college students.

We are also available to recommend referrals for personal reasons to local mental health providers.

Please do not hesitate to call on us when the need arises.


Greg Nicholls, Ph.D, Director – Counseling and Psychological Services

Warning Signs of Severe Emotional Distress/Depression

  • Sudden or dramatic changes in behavior that you find disturbing or out of character
  • References to suicide, including off the cuff remarks or jokes
  • Significant changes in mood or behavior
  • Psychosomatic symptoms, including loss of appetite or excessive eating, insomnia or excessive sleeping, gastrointestinal distress, tension headaches, nausea or unexplained pain
  • Dramatic changes in personal relationships, including death of a loved one, parental divorce, difficulties in family relationships, change in family finances, unsatisfying end to a romantic relationship
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Feeling of being a burden to family and friends
  • Isolation, withdrawal from routine activities and social relationships

How To Refer

  • Become familiar with the services and staff of CAPS so you will feel more comfortable advocating services. (“I know some people at CAPS. I think you will find them helpful.”)
  • Present counseling as a sign of health. (“You owe it to yourself to get support through this rough time.”)
  • Introduce counseling as an additional source of help so that the student does not feel abandoned or rejected by you.
  • Be prepared for the student’s fear that a referral by you means that s/he must really be in a bad way. (“I’m not a trained psychologist. I’m sure CAPS can offer you insights or suggestions that I am not aware of.”)
  • Suggest that the student call from your office (x1090) or stop by CAPS (Merion Gardens, A504) to make the appointment.
  • In urgent situations, call the center to say the student needs to be seen immediately. It may be necessary to walk the student over to the center.
  • Check with the student after the appointment. If the student was disappointed in the session, remind him or her that the process can be slow. Encourage the student to return to CAPS to discuss the negative feelings or to try a different psychologist at the center.
  • If the student resists the referral, ask him/her to think about it. Maintain your relationship with the student. If you are worried, contact CAPS to discuss your concerns.
  • If you are uncertain about the appropriateness of a referral, call CAPS for a consultation.