As a faculty or staff member interacting daily with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavioral changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student. A student’s behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could well constitute an attempt to draw attention to her/his plight as “a cry for help.”
Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress, and your courage to acknowledge your concerns directly to the student, often are noted by students as the most significant factor in their successful problem resolution. Often times our own feelings (i.e. uneasiness, anxiety, fear) can be excellent indicators that something is not quite right.
If you ever have these types of feelings and are not quite sure what to do, this guide can be helpful. You are also welcome to call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for a consultation whenever you are unsure of a situation.
Distressed: Behavior that causes us to feel alarmed, upset, or worried (most common).
Disruptive: Behavior that interferes with or interrupts the education process of other students or the normal business functions of the university.
Dangerous: Behavior that leaves us feeling frightened and in fear for our personal safety or the safety of others.
Openly acknowledging to students that you are aware of their distress, that you are sincerely concerned about their welfare, and that you are willing to help them explore their alternatives, can have a profound effect. We encourage you, whenever possible, to speak directly and honestly to a student when you sense that she/he is in academic and/or personal distress.
1How to accomplish this will probably vary by the circumstances, and by the nature of the student's distress. Although it is beyond the scope of this handbook to go into depth on how to do this for all situations, this is discussed in a little more depth under the specific categories of student distress.
If you are unsure of how to handle a specific student, we encourage you to consult with one of the Counseling Psychologists on our staff. Call us at 985-4001, inform the receptionist who you are (faculty, staff, administrator) and ask to speak with one of our Counseling Psychologists. A brief consultation may help you sort out the relevant issues, explore alternative approaches and suggest new ways to cope with the anxiety or stress the student may be experiencing. Overall, when dealing with most students in crisis situations, conveying your concern and willingness to help in any way you can (including referral) is probably the most important thing you can do. Your support, encouragement (including referral), and reassurance will be particularly valuable to a student in crisis.
When you have determined that a referral to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is appropriate, you can be most helpful by clearly and concisely telling the student why you think counseling would be helpful. You might also tell the student a few facts about our services. For instance, all services are free to regularly enrolled students, and professional counselors and psychologists provide counseling Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM All discussions are confidential except when the student presents a danger to self, others, or when certain kinds of abuse is involved. Early intervention is preferable to crisis intervention. To ensure prompt attention, it is best to call in advance for an appointment. Having the student make the call increases her/his responsibility and commitment to come for counseling; however, there may be times, especially if the student is in crisis, when it is advantageous for you to call and make the appointment and/or accompany the student to our office. We will schedule the student with one of our staff as quickly as possible. Please do not ask for a specific counseling psychologist, as we have a rotating on-duty crisis counselor available.
In some situations, it may be imperative to request the student be seen as soon as possible. If a student's situation is urgent, she/he will probably have concerns involving:
Typically, even the utmost time and energy given to these students is not enough. They often seek to control your time and unconsciously believe the amount of time received is a reflection of their worth. You may find yourself increasingly drained and feeling responsible for this student in a way that is beyond your normal involvement. It is helpful if the student can be connected with the proper sources of support on-campus and in the community in general.
Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one's well-being. For some students the cause of their anxiety will be clear, but for others it is difficult to pinpoint the source of stress. Regardless of the cause, the resulting symptoms are experienced as similar and include rapid heart palpitations; chest pain or discomfort; dizziness; sweating; trembling or shaking; and cold, clammy hands. The student may also complain of difficulty concentrating, always being "on the edge," having difficulty making decisions, or being too fearful to take action. In more rare cases, a student may experience a panic attack in which the physical symptoms occur spontaneously and intensely in such a way that the student may fear she/he is dying. The following guidelines remain appropriate in most cases.
Depression, and the variety of ways it manifests itself, is part of a natural emotional and physical response to life's ups and downs. With the busy and demanding life of a college student, it is safe to assume that most students will experience periods of reactive depression in their college careers. It is when the depressive symptoms become so extreme, or are so enduring, that they begin to interfere with the student's ability to function in school, work, or social environments, that the student will come to your attention and be in need of assistance.Due to the opportunities that faculty and staff have to observe and interact with students, they are often the first to recognize that a student is in distress. Look for a pattern of those indicators.
Students experiencing depression often respond well to a small amount of attention for a short period of time. Early intervention increases the chances of the student's rapid return to optimal performance.
Sexual harassment involves unwelcome and unwanted sexual attention and/or advances, requests for sexual favors, and other inappropriate verbal or physical conduct. It is usually found in the context of a relationship of unequal power, rank or status. It does not matter that the person's intention was not to harass. It is the effect it has that counts. As long as the conduct interferes with a student's academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment, it is considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment usually is not an isolated one-time only case but a repeated pattern of behavior that may include:
Sexual harassment of students is covered by the California Education Code, section 89535. Common reactions by students who have been harassed is to doubt their perceptions, wonder if it was a joke, or wonder if, in some way, they have brought it on themselves. A student may begin to participate less in the classroom, drop or avoid classes, or even change majors.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. It is important to view all suicidal comments as serious and make appropriate referrals. High risk indicators include feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and futility; a severe loss or threat of loss; detailed suicide plan; a history of a previous attempt; history of alcohol or drug abuse; feeling of alienation and isolation; and preoccupation with death.
Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug. Alcohol abusers in college populations abuse other drugs, both prescription and illicit. Patterns of use are affected by fads and peer pressure. Currently, alcohol is the preferred drug on college campuses. The effects of alcohol on the user are well known to most of us. Student alcohol abuse is most often identified by faculty when irresponsible, unpredictable behavior affects the learning situation (i.e., drunk and disorderly in class2), or when a combination of the health and social impairments associated with alcohol abuse sabotages student performance. Because of the denial that exists in most substance abusers, it is important to express your concern about the student not in terms of suspicions about alcohol and other drugs but in terms of specific changes in behavior or performance.
2 See The Verbally Aggressive Student section
Typically, these students complain about something other than their psychological difficulties. They are generally tense, anxious, mistrustful, isolated, and have few friends. They tend to interpret minor oversights as significant personal rejection, and often overreact to insignificant occurrences. They see themselves as the focal point of everyone's behavior, and everything that happens has special meaning to them. They are overly concerned with fairness and being treated equally. Feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy underlie most of their behavior, even though they may seem capable and bright.
These students have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, the dream from the waking state. Their thinking is typically illogical, confused or irrational; their emotional responses may be incongruent or inappropriate; and their behavior may be bizarre and disturbing. They may experience hallucinations, often auditory, and may report hearing voices. While this student may elicit alarm or fear from others, they are generally not dangerous and are more frightened and overwhelmed by you than you are by them. If you cannot make sense of their conversation, they may be in trouble.
Students may become verbally abusive when they encounter frustrating situations which they believe are beyond their control. They can displace anger and frustration from those situations onto the nearest target. Explosive outbursts or ongoing belligerent, hostile behavior become this student's way of gaining power and control in an otherwise out-of-control experience. It is important to remember that the student is generally not angry at you personally, but is angry at her/his world and you are the object of pent-up frustrations. This behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.
3 Do not do this if you fear for your safety. In all instances, ensure that a staff or a faculty person is easily accessible to you in the event that the student behavior escalates.
Violence because of emotional distress is rare and typically occurs when the student's level of frustration has been so intense, or of such an enduring nature as to erode all of the student's emotional controls. The adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," best applies here. This behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.
In order to provide services to a greater number of students, CAPS must necessarily offer time-limited counseling. A student may be offered between one (1) and ten (10) counseling sessions in an academic year. While a maximum of ten (10) sessions is offered in an academic year, 10 sessions are not guaranteed to all students. A maximum of 25 sessions is offered during the academic career of a student, although 25 sessions are not guaranteed to all students. When further individual counseling is required, the counselor will refer the student to a community agency or psychotherapist in independent practice. Students can receive brief (i.e., one to three sessions) crisis assistance beyond the 25-session limit when needed. Please note that limits on the number of counseling sessions can change based upon student need, counselor availability, and the professional judgment of the Counseling Psychologist staff
Group counseling is available, even when no individual sessions remain. Students can participate in CAPS groups each semester. An interview with a group leader is required to determine whether the group is appropriate for her/him. Normally, a student participates in only one group each semester.
|(562) 985-4001||CSULB, Brotman Hall, room 226||Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM|
|(562) 985-4771||Monday - Thursday, 8 AM - 5:30 PM,
Friday, 8 AM - 11:30 AM
|(562) 985-5358||Brotman Hall - 289||Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM|
|(562) 985-4101||24 Hours/Day, 7 Days/Week Call 911|
|(562) 985-8687||LA3 - 105||Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM|
Rape Crisis Sexual Assault Crisis Agency
Call Counseling and Psychological Services for a more extensive referral list.
Our sincere thanks to the Career Development and Counseling Center at California State University, Fullerton, and the California Organization of Counseling Center Directors in Higher Education whose combined efforts we have liberally borrowed to include in this handbook.
CSULB, in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI and Title VII), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 et al, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sex, handicap, age, or Vietnam era veteran status in any of its policies, procedures or practices; nor does CSULB discriminate on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation. The nondiscrimination policy covers all CSULB programs and activities, including employment. In addition to meeting fully its obligations of nondiscrimination under federal and state law, CSULB is committed to creating a community in which a diverse population can live and work in an atmosphere of tolerance, civility and respect for the rights and sensibilities of each individual, without regard to economics status, ethnic background, political views, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics or beliefs.