Are you a Camosun instructor looking to support your students or connect them with counselling services? Instructors can play a vital part in identifying students who need additional help and in referring them to the appropriate services.
Guidelines for supporting students and making referrals
Instructors may be the first people to notice the signs of difficulty. These students' behaviours can be very challenging for themselves, for other students and for instructors.
However, for many reasons, instructors are not the appropriate people to provide counselling or continuous personal support to students.
Students presenting with "at risk" behaviours need to be encouraged and empowered to use college counselling and/or community mental health services. Instructors can do this while maintaining and clearly expressing their own personal and professional boundaries.
When instructors are clear on their role boundaries, use direct caring communication, understand and use service referral protocols, students are more likely to get the help they need in a timely manner.
We appreciate your assistance in identifying and referring those students who need help.
"At-risk" student behaviour
At times, students can exhibit behaviour that is worrisome or unsafe. This can present as a one-time occurrence or can be frequent and/or severe in nature. Examples could include: confusion, withdrawal, missing class, excessive fears, substance abuse, worry/anxiety, depression, emotional upset, inappropriate comments, poor decision-making, anger or verbal conflict.
These students need help. The more severe or alarming the behaviour, the quicker we need to act. If there are obvious signs of danger or threat to themselves or others' personal safety you must contact Counselling and should inform your Department/Program Chair as soon as possible.
Steps in responding supportively
- Listen: Talk to students about your observations and concerns. Listen with compassion to what they are saying. Try not to judge or analyze. The point is to convey understanding. It needs to feel safe for them to share their feelings and concerns. Beginning: "Could I speak with you in private after class?", "I couldn't help but notice that you...(e.g. were crying)"
- Share your concerns and provide encouragement: State your observations in a calm and concerned manner. State that you want the student to be successful and that you want to be helpful. "In order to be successful it helps to talk over and get support for personal issues (stress, relationship or lifestyle issues), that may be getting in the way."
- State your role limitations: "As your instructor I am not the best person to help you with these things. I care and want you to be successful, so I want to recommend that you see someone who can help."
- Identify resources or make a referral: "The Counselling Centre is the best place to talk over these issues. It is a safe place where trained counsellors provide private, confidential personal counselling for students. Many students have benefited from using counsellors as a sounding board. Counselling is a safe and supportive place to relieve pressure and resolve issues."
- Make referral phone call. Make sure to include your name, the student's name and student number, and the concerning behaviours you have noticed.
- Make sure student gets safely to service.
Need support for yourself?
Contact the Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) or check your benefits plan for coverage of psychological services.
Consulting and support for instructors
Counsellors can be a valuable resource for instructors. We can assist you with:
- Making sense of and managing challenging in-class/lab/clinic student behaviour.
- Debriefing and support following challenging incidents involving students.
- Providing classroom and individual support talks for affected students.
- Problem-solving and suggestions with difficult student progress issues.