Faculty & Staff Resources

Faculty & Staff Resources

The following is a set of guidelines intended to be useful to staff and faculty in making appropriate referrals to the Counseling and Testing Center. The guidelines address situations that represent a need for immediate action followed by those situations that do not represent an immediate emergency.

The Counseling & Testing Center (CTC) is open for emergencies and routine assessments from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you have a student in crisis during the CTC’s emergency on-call hours, please follow the procedures listed below. Counseling services are free of charge and confidential following the laws of the State of Georgia.

In an emergency situation, it is important to assess the nature of the emergency in order to determine what constitutes an appropriate source of help, given the circumstances.

  • If a student appears violent or actively self-destructive, call the University Police at  404-413-3333 and The Office of the Dean of Students 404-413-1515. The priority is to reestablish or maintain the physical safety of the student and other parties.
  • If a student is clearly upset, perhaps crying or disoriented you can:
    1. Attempt to talk to the student to learn about what is going on. This may involve separating the individual from the group (if they are in class, for instance), talking to the person calmly, and allowing time for the person to regain composure. If calming the person down does not seem possible or you have some information which leads you to believe it may be an emergency (such as suicidal thoughts or plans, confused thinking and/or speaking, obvious intoxication and/or drug use,etc.,  call the Office of the Dean of Students at 404-413-1515 and the University Police at 404-413-3333. If the student is not an emergency but distraught and might benefit from professional help or they need a consultation to determine how to help, call the CTC at 404-413-1640 and ask for the senior staff on call psychologist.
    2. Identify yourself as a faculty/staff member with a student in crisis.
    3. You and the on-call counselor can consult about the following options:
      • The student can come to the CTC in his or her own time
      • You can walk the student over to the CTC-2nd floor reception desk
    4. If you decide to walk the student over to the CTC please identify yourself at the front desk when you arrive, and state the name of the counselor with whom you spoke. If you have not called ahead, ask for the senior staff on-call counselor.
    5. If you talk with the student and there does not seem to be an immediate need, you might suggest they go to the CTC to set up an initial assessment interview to get further assistance in coping (See the section on non-emergencies below for further information). The CTC can usually see a student for a non-emergency assessment within one week.
    6. If you want to immediately bring the student to the CTC without calling first due to urgent concerns, follow steps 5 and 6 above. The senior staff on-call counselor may want to speak with you a few minutes to gather information. The student will be seen as soon as possible. Students in crisis are generally seen within 10 minutes, but if the on –call counselor is already with another student, it may take up to 20 minutes.
    7. The CTC will provide appropriate intervention based on need. This intervention can range from a one-time immediate crisis intervention to psychiatric assessment and possible hospitalizations.
    8. In all cases, if you want the counselor to provide you with any feedback about the disposition of the student, let the counselor know in advance. Due our legal obligation to guard the student's confidentiality, it may be necessary to get a signed release of information from the student in order to provide any information to you.

After-Hours Emergencies – 24 Hour Crisis Line:
If you need help with a student in crisis during non-business hours, please call 404-413-1640 to speak to an after hours counselor.

Tips for Recognizing and Dealing with Students in Emotional Distress

Faculty as Helping Resources for Students
University students typically encounter a great deal of stress (i.e. academic, social, family, work, financial) during the course of their educational experience. While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, for some the pressures can become overwhelming and unmanageable. Students in difficulty have a number of resources available to them. These include close friends, relatives, clergy, and coaches. In fact, anyone who is seen as caring and trustworthy may be a potential resource in time of trouble.

We believe there is a powerful rationale for faculty members to intervene when they encounter distressed students: the inability to cope effectively with emotional stress poses a serious threat to students’ learning ability.  As a faculty member, your expression of interest and concern may be a critical factor in helping a struggling student reestablish the emotional equilibrium necessary for academic survival and success.

Your willingness to respond to students in distress will undoubtedly be influenced by your personal style and your particular philosophy about the limits of a professor’s responsibility for helping students grow, emotionally as well as intellectually. Obviously, a student’ s openness to assistance and such situational factors as class size, length and depth of your relationship, and the location of the contact, may have a substantial effect on the type of interactions you can have with a student.

We hope this page will not only help you assess what can sometimes be difficult situations, but also give you some specific ideas about what you can do when confronted with a student who is in distress.

Recognizing Troubled Students
At one time or another, everyone feels depressed or upset.  But we can identify three general levels of student distress which, when present over a period of time, suggest that the problems the person is dealing with are more than the “normal” ones.

Level 1: These behaviors, although not disruptive to others in your class, may indicate that something is wrong and that help may be needed:

  • serious grade problems or a change from consistently good grades to unaccountably poor performance.
  • excessive absences, especially if the student had previously demonstrated good, consistent class attendance.
  • unusual or markedly changed patterns of interaction, i.e. totally avoiding participation, becoming excessively anxious when called upon, dominating discussions, etc.
  • other characteristics that suggest the student is having trouble managing stress successfully include a depressed, lethargic mood, being excessively active or talkative (very rapid speech), swollen, red eyes
  • marked change in personal dress and hygiene, sweaty (when the room is not hot), and  falling asleep in class.

Level 2: These behaviors may indicate significant emotional distress, but also a reluctance or inability to acknowledge a need for more personal help:

  • repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional disclosing the circumstances prompting the request.
  • new or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with the effective management of your class.
  • unusual or exaggerated emotional response to situations.

Level 3: These behaviors obviously indicate severe emotional distress and indicate a need for emergency intervention:

  • highly disruptive behavior (hostile, aggressive, violent, etc.)
  • inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, unconnected or disjointed thoughts).
  • loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things which “aren’t there,” beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability).
  • overtly suicidal thoughts (referring to suicide as a current option)
  • homicidal thoughts

What can you do?
Level 3 problems are the easiest to identify. If you encounter a crisis situation, you should call the Georgia State University Police at 404-413-3333. You may also call the CTC at 404-413-1640 for a consultation with the crisis counselor.

In dealing with a student who shows Level 1 or Level 2 behavior, you have several choices.  You can choose to not deal with it at all, deal directly with the request or disruptive behavior in a way that limits your interaction to the classroom issue, or you can deal with the situation on a more personal level.

If you choose to approach a student you’re concerned about or if a student seeks you out for help with personal problems, here are some suggestions which might make the opportunity more comfortable for you and helpful for the student:

    1. Talk to the student in private when both of you have time and are not rushed or preoccupied.
    2. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next.
    3. If you have initiated the contact, express your concern in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms (e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned,” rather than “Where have you been lately?  Goofing off again?”)
    4. Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way. Communicate understanding by repeating back the gist of what the student has told you. Try to include both the content and feelings (“It sounds like you’re not accustomed to such a big campus and you’re feeling left out of things.”)  Let the student talk. Avoid judging, evaluating, and criticizing unless the student specifically asks for your opinion.  Such behavior is apt to close the student off from you and from getting the help needed.  It is important to respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree with it.
    5. Work with the student to clarify the costs and benefits of each option for handling the problems from the student’s point of view.

When should you make a referral?
Even though a student asks for help with a problem and you are willing to help, there are circumstances which may indicate that you should suggest that the student use another resource.For example: the problem or request for information is one you know you can’t handle, you believe that personality differences will interfere with your ability to help, you know the student personally (as a friend, neighbor, friend of a friend) and think you could not be objective enough to really help, the student acknowledges the problem but is reluctant to discuss it with you, after working with a student for some time you find that little progress has been made and you don’t know how to proceed, you are feeling overwhelmed, pressed for time, or otherwise at a high level of stress yourself.

Make a referral
Some people accept a referral for professional help more easily than others. It is usually best to be frank with a student about the limits of your ability to assist them—limits of time, energy, training, and objectivity. It is often reassuring for students  to hear that you respect their willingness to talk to you and that you want to support them in getting the assistance they need. Confused students may be comforted to know that they don’t necessarily have to know what’s wrong before they ask for help.

Remind them that seeking help doesn't necessarily mean that they have serious problems. It is possible that their concern is one of the common reasons that college students seek the help of another person.  You may share with them the handout "Counseling and You: What's it All About".

If an assessment session from CTC staff is warranted, you can either come with the student or ask the student to come to the reception area to complete the computerized paperwork before seeing a counselor. The student can either see the crisis counselor that day or obtain a scheduled appointment for a half hour meeting. The screening counselor will get to know the student and recommend services at the CTC or other appropriate agencies. A crisis counselor is available from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and and 9 a.m. -8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday when school is in session for seeing students and providing consultation with faculty.

If you have concerns during non-business hours, you may contact the Georgia State University Police Department at 404-413-1640 and if they decide that we should be involved, they will contact CTC staff.

Student Need:  Source of Help:
Career or major choice University Career Services
Interpersonal concerns Counseling & Testing Center
Other personal concerns Counseling & Testing Center
Testing concerns Testing Office
Stress management Mind-Body program
Sexual or discriminatory harassment concerns Student/Staff Ombudsperson
  1. A student's initial contact with the Counseling & Testing Center (CTC) may be made by phone or by presenting in person to the CTC. Appointments for consultation can only be made in-person once initial, computerized paperwork is completed.
  2. A student who comes to the CTC for an assessment for personal counseling will be asked to provide information on the computer, both about the nature of the concern and other relevant information. When information is completed (15-20 minutes), the student can schedule an appointment for consultation. Normally, scheduled appointments for consultation are available within one week. If the student is in crisis, the student should inform the front desk that it is an emergency and the student will be seen by the emergency on-call counselor.
  3. If you would like to consult with a professional counselor regarding the appropriateness of seeking help at the CTC, please call 404-413-1640 and ask to speak to the senior staff on call counselor. The CTC is available to help you with your concerns about any student. A phone call can put you in touch with a professional who will be able to assist you.