The purpose of this publication is to assist faculty, staff,
and administrators in their efforts to enhance the educational and
personal achievements of Pasadena City College students by providing
some information about situations or circumstances in which professional
counseling may be beneficial. Suggestions are offered on how to
refer someone to Psychological Services. Please call on us any time
for assistance at (626) 585-7273.
As college students face the evolving
stages of adult development, they require knowledge, skills and
support if they are to successfully meet these challenges. It is
the mission of Psychological Services to provide students with services
which promote and enhance their psychological health, learning,
and social and career development.
Because students enter PCC with varying
skills and backgrounds, Psychological Services attempts to meet
each student at his or her need level, whether the student is in
a crisis situation, is experiencing an exacerbation of a long-standing
problem that interferes with success in college, or is anticipating
forthcoming changes. A variety of direct and indirect services is
available at no cost to enrolled students. Short-term individual
psychological counseling is the primary service. Additional services
include crises intervention, psychological assessment, career and
group counseling, information
and referral, and psychological self-help
Consultation with faculty, staff and administrators
on student matters is offered regularly. Our staff consists of a
licensed psychologist, pre-doctoral psychology interns, and post-doctoral
FACULTY AND STUDENT SERVICES STAFF:
FIRST LINE OF ASSISTANCE TO STUDENTS
Because of the frequency and special
nature of their contacts with students, faculty members and student
service staff are in direct positions to observe students and be
aware of their needs. Moreover, faculty student services staff are
often perceived by students as the first point of contact in obtaining
advice and support.
WHEN MIGHT PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELING BE BENEFICIAL?
The reasons that individuals seek help
from counseling psychologists are as varied as people themselves.
A student's motives for seeking counseling might range from wishing
to solve a particular problem to desiring to enhance his or her
personal development. In any case, the following indicators might
be useful in making a decision about referring a student to the
Psychological Services. To prevent possible over-interpretation
of a single or an isolated behavior, it is advisable to look for
clusters of signs which appear at approximately the same time.
- Stated Need for Help
The desire for assistance with a problem may be stated directly
or indirectly. For this reason, it is important not only to attend
to the content of what a student may say, but to understand the
intentions and feelings underlying the message. Listening involves
hearing what is being said, noticing the tone used, and observing
the expressions and gestures employed. In fact, having someone
listen attentively to an expression of a problematic feeling or
thought is often a cathartic experience for the speaker which,
in and of itself, can result in the individual feeling somewhat
- References to Suicide
It is often necessary to distinguish between a theoretical or
hypothetical discussion of suicide and a statement which reflects
true personal anguish. However, if an individual talks about or
alludes to details of how, when, or where he or she may be contemplating
suicide, then an immediate referral is necessary. Regardless of
the circumstances or context, any reference to committing suicide
should be considered serious. To conclude that a student's suicidal
talk is simply a bid for attention is extremely risky. A judgment
about the seriousness and possible lethality of the suicidal thought
or gesture should not be made without consultation with a mental
- Changes in Mood or Behavior
Actions which are inconsistent with a person's normal behavior
may indicate that he or she is experiencing psychological distress.
A student who withdraws from usual social interaction, demonstrates
an unwillingness to communicate, commits asocial acts, has spells
of unexplained crying or outbursts of anger, or demonstrates unusual
irritability may be suffering from symptoms associated with a
- Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are two of the more common psychological
disturbances which can present significant problems for students.
Both of these rather common emotional states, when they become
prolonged or severe, can impair an individual's normal functioning.
When a student's ability to function in a normal manner becomes
impaired because of anxiety or depression, some kind of professional
assistance is recommended.
- Psychophysiologic Symptoms
Students who experience tension-induced headaches, nausea, or
other physical pains which have no apparent physical cause may
be experiencing psychophysiologic symptoms. Such symptoms are
real for that individual, and so is the pain. Other physical symptoms
of possible problems may include a loss of appetite, excessive
sleeping, or gastrointestinal distress.
- Traumatic Changes in Personal Relationships
Personal problems often result when an individual experiences
traumatic changes in personal relationships. The death of a family
member or a close friend, the breakup of relationships, parental
divorce, changes in family responsibilities, or difficulties with
finances can all result in increased stress and psychological
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Indications of excessive drinking or other substance abuses are
almost always indicative of psychological problems. Frequent absences,
tardiness, missed assignment, sleepiness, poor concentration,
and spotty performance may point to substance abuse.
- Career Choice Problems
It is rather common for college students to go through periods
of career indecision and uncertainty. Such experiences are often
characterized by dissatisfaction with an academic major, unrealistic
career aspirations, or confusion with regard to interests, abilities,
or values. However, chronic indecisiveness can be debilitating
experience and many students need assistance in developing alternative
goals when previous decisions prove to be in need of revision.
- Learning Problems
Many students find the demands of college-level academic work
to be greater than they anticipated. While it is expected that
all students will go through some adjustment period in this regard,
those who demonstrate a consistent discrepancy between their performance
and their potential may be in need of assistance. Poor study habits,
incapacitating test anxiety, or repeated absences from class are
all situations which might benefit from psychological services.
- Retention Issues
Psychological counseling services can be effective in combating
student attrition. Students who are considering dropping out of
school or worrying about possible academic failure may find counseling
to be a useful resource during their decision-making.
WHEN TO REFER
Aside from the signs or symptoms that
may suggest the need for counseling, there are other guidelines
which may help the faculty or staff member define the limits of
his or her involvement with a particular student's problem. A referral
is usually indicated in the following situations:
- a student presents a problem or requests information which is
outside your range of knowledge;
- you feel that personality differences that cannot be resolved
between you and the student will interfere with your helping the
- the problem is personal, and you know the student on other than
a professional basis (friend, neighbor, relative, etc.);
- a student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some
- you believe your advisement with the student has not been effective.
HOW TO REFER
When you have determined that a student
might benefit from professional counseling, it is usually best to
arrange a private conference and speak directly to the student in
a straight-forward fashion that will show your concern for his or
her welfare. It is not advisable to attempt to deceive or trick
the student into consulting a psychologist. Make it clear that this
recommendation represents your best professional judgment based
on your observations of the student's behavior. Be specific regarding
the behaviors that have raised your concerns and avoid making generalizations
about the student. You may wish to discuss your concerns with the
divisional dean and document, in your own notes, your conference
with the student.
Except in emergencies, the option must
be left open for the student to accept or refuse counseling. If
the student is skeptical or reluctant for whatever reason, simply
express your acceptance of those feelings so that your own relationship
with the student is not jeopardized. Give the student an opportunity
to consider other alternatives by suggesting that he or she might
need some time to think it over. You may wish to give the PCC Psychological
Services bookmark as a handy reference. If the student emphatically
says "no," then respect that decision and again leave
the situation open for possible reconsideration at a later time.
If you push the issue too far, insisting, prodding or appearing
as an authoritarian parent, you may close the door to future communication.
Above all, do not rush. Unless it is a matter of clear urgency,
If the student agrees to the referral,
move directly and decisively toward arranging an appointment with
Psychological Services; this will help the student feel confident
in your ability to help. With the student present, call the Psychological
Services office (x7273) and have him or her come directly to our
office in Room L108. If appropriate, suggest to the student that,
with his or her permission, you will give information to the psychologist
about the nature of the problem. The first appointment will usually
be scheduled within a few days of the student's request. Finally,
you might want to follow up with the student at a later date to
show your continued interest even if he or she did not accept your
Students requiring urgent help because
of psychological difficulties may be seen during walk-in hours or
on an emergency basis. The current walk-in hours and expanded walk-in
schedule during final examinations are available from Psychological
Services. In an emergency, please call Psychological Services at
(626) 585-7273 any weekday from 8:00am to 3:30pm. For assistance
at other times, please call Police and Safety Services at (626)
WHAT ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY?
It is important for members of the college
community to understand that the interviews conducted by the counseling
psychology staff are confidential. Information about those interviews
or the content of such interviews cannot be released except upon
a student's written request, in circumstances which would result
in clear danger to the individual or others, or as may be required
by law. Psychological Services strictly adheres to this policy.
If a faculty or staff member is interested
in a student's contact with Psychological Services, information
can best be obtained directly from the student. It should be noted
that students are not bound by the same promises of confidentiality
that psychologists are obliged to keep.
WHAT IF OTHER ISSUES ARISE?
The Psychological Services provides
consultation services to faculty, staff, and administrators. These
consultations often focus on concerns for students, behavioral problems
which occur in classrooms or on campus, or other issues that may
have important psychological dimensions. Our staff is available
8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and Tuesday and Wednesday
to 6:30 p.m. each week by appointment. Please call us at (626) 585-7273
or come to Room L108.
This guide was prepared by Kent T.
Yamauchi, Ph.D., Counseling Psychologist.
Special acknowledgment for the technical assistance in the development
of this handout is given to the Center for Counseling & Student
Development of the University of Delaware and to the University
Counseling Services at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute &
Published September 1988
Second Printing October 1991
Third Printing December 1194
Fourth Printing April 1998
Pasadena City College Printing Services