Pasadena City College, Home of the PCC Lancers

Psychological Services

Referral Guide

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 materials.

    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 registered psychologists.



    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.



    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.

  1. 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 better.

  2. 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 health professional.

  3. 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 psychological problem.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 problems.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


    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:

  1. a student presents a problem or requests information which is outside your range of knowledge;
  2. you feel that personality differences that cannot be resolved between you and the student will interfere with your helping the student;
  3. the problem is personal, and you know the student on other than a professional basis (friend, neighbor, relative, etc.);
  4. a student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason; or
  5. you believe your advisement with the student has not been effective.


    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, go slowly.

    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 attempted referral.

    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) 585-7111.


    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.


    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 & State University.
Published September 1988
Second Printing October 1991
Third Printing December 1194
Fourth Printing April 1998
Pasadena City College Printing Services