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Student Psychological Counseling Services

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Making a Referral to Counseling Services

When is This Important?

  • You realize that the student is in crisis or has significant problems that you feel requires professional help, and you feel ill-equipped to handle them yourself
  • You recognize that the student has persistent problems which do not appear to get better with your help, or are getting worse
  • You see that the student is unwilling to take responsibility for his or her behavior or seems unable to recognize the impact their negative behavior has on him or herself and others

Steps to Make a Referral

  1. Attempt to develop a trusting relationship with the student and get to know them as appropriate.
  2. Address the concerns you have in a caring, but straightforward manner. Point out the student's behaviors that concern you. It's often helpful to note the magnitude and duration of these behaviors. "I'm concerned about you because you've been very withdrawn and uncommunicative for the past three weeks."
  3. Recommend that the student get counseling and give your reason for making the referral. "You and I have talked several times over the past few weeks and it seems that things aren't getting any better for you. I think it would be helpful for you to talk with a professional counselor. I want you to know that I'm concerned about you and want to remain in contact with you, however, I feel that it would be to your benefit to explore professional counseling."
  4. Don't force the idea of counseling, as it may jeopardize the relationship you have with the student and make him or her feel you are rejecting or stigmatizing them.  Keep in mind also that your student’s past experiences, culture and background can all play a factor in their perception of seeking psychological counseling. Your student may need to hear it is OK to seek services when feeling distressed, but if your student is not ready, you can encourage them to seek help sooner than later before it gets worse. 
  5. After referral, stay in touch with the student in a non-intrusive way. Check in to see how things are going.

In many situations, all you may need to do is tell the student to come by the Student Psychological Counseling Services located at 410 N. Glassell to fill out intake information to make an appointment. If you feel the student needs more support in contacting us, you may wish to call us directly and tell us that you are referring the student and why, or you may offer to walk over with your student to SPCS. Please remember, once a student is seen at SPCS, any information about the student, even if he or she is attending counseling, cannot be shared with anyone without the student's written permission.

Also remember you can share your concerns by filing a SCIT (Student Concerns Intervention Team) report, or by calling the Dean of students office at (714) 997-6721 if you have concerns for your student that are not an immediate threat to your student’s safety or someone else’s. If you are unsure, you can contact SPCS to request a consult. As a rule of thumb, don’t underestimate your “gut feeling” in your decision to assist your student in getting some help.


A psychological emergency exists when, if someone doesn’t get immediate help, serious psychological or physical consequences result.      

Call 911 or Public Safety at (714) 997-6763.

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The Anxious Student

What to Do 

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Remain calm and assume control in a soothing manner
  • Focus on relevant information, speaking concretely and concisely
  • Help the student develop an action plan that addresses the main concern
  • Refer to SPCS


  • Overwhelming the student with information or complicated solutions
  • Arguing with irrational thoughts
  • Devaluing the information presented
  • Assuming the student will get over the anxiety without treatment

Facts about Anxiety

Anxiety can be generalized across a range of situations, or it may be situation-specific (e.g., test anxiety, social anxiety, public speaking anxiety).

Symptoms of anxiety include

  • Agitation
  • Panic
  • Avoidance
  • Irrational fears
  • Fear of losing control
  • Ruminations
  • Excessive worry
  • Sleep or eating problems

Research suggests that in cases of extreme anxiety, the most effective treatment is often a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton Adapted from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

The Depressed Student

What to Do 

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Listen carefully and validate the student’s feelings and experiences
  • Be supportive and express your concern about the situation
  • Ask the student if they are having thoughts of suicide
  • Discuss clearly and concisely an action plan, such as having the student immediately call for a counseling appointment
  • Refer the student to SPCS for counseling
  • Students with serious clinical depression may be eligible for accommodations (e.g., extended time on exams) through Disability Services (714) 516-4520


  • Ignoring the student
  • Downplaying the situation
  • Arguing with the student or disputing that the student is feeling depressed
  • Providing too much information for the student to process
  • Expecting the student to stop feeling depressed without intervention
  • Assuming the family knows about the student’s depression

Facts about Depression

Depression is a common mental health problem that varies in severity and duration. In its less serious form, depression is a temporary reaction to loss, stress, or life challenges. It can be alleviated through the passage of time and/or the natural healing effects of social support, daily routines, and simple coping strategies like distraction and exercise. Severe or chronic depression usually requires professional help.

Symptoms of depression include

  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness
  • A deep sense of sadness
  • An inability to experience pleasure
  • Irregular eating and sleeping
  • Difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision making
  • Fatigue and social withdrawal
  • Sometimes includes irritation, anxiety, and anger

In its most serious form, depression can be accompanied by self-destructive thoughts and intentions as a way to escape from the emotional pain. Research shows that depression is highly responsive to both psychotherapy and medication.

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton Adapted from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

The Demanding Student

What to Do 

  • Talk to the student in a place that is safe and comfortable
  • Remain calm and in control
  • Set clear limits and hold the student to the allotted time for the discussion
  • Emphasize behaviors that are and are not acceptable
  • Respond quickly and with clear limits to behavior that disrupts class, study sessions or consultations
  • Be prepared for manipulative requests and behaviors
  • Refer student to SPCS for services and/or off campus resources
  • You can file a SCIT (Student Concerns Intervention Team) report to report your non-emergency concerns for a student
  • If the situation escalates to threats or physical contact, or you do not feel right in your gut, contact Public Safety (714) 997-6763 or 911 from any campus phone


  • Arguing with the student
  • Giving in to inappropriate requests
  • Adjusting your schedule or policies to accommodation the student
  • Ignoring inappropriate behavior that has an impact on you or other students
  • Feeling obligated to take care of the student or feeling guilty for not doing more
  • Allowing the student to intimidate you

Facts about a Demanding Person

  • Demanding students can be intrusive and persistent and may require much time and attention
  • Demanding traits can be associated with anxiety, depression, and/or personality problems

Characteristics of Demanding Students Include

  • A sense of entitlement
  • An inability to emphasize
  • A need for control
  • Difficulty in dealing with ambiguity
  • Perfectionism
  • Difficulty with structure and limits
  • Dependency
  • Fears about handling life

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton Adapted from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

The Substance Abusing Student

What to Do

  • Treat the situation as serious
  • Share your concern and encourage the student to seek help
  • Recognize that denial is a powerful aspect of substance abuse problems and that it can involve conscious or unconscious lying and distorting the truth
  • Refer to SPCS
  • Refer to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or (714) 556-4555
  • Refer to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) (714) 590-2388


  • Ignoring or making light of the problem
  • Chastising or condoning the behavior
  • Assuming that experimenting with drugs or alcohol is harmless

Facts about Substance Abuse

  • Alcohol and drug abuse among college students interferes with academic performance, puts them at risk for serious accidents and even death, and can lead to addiction problems for a subset of individuals
  • Substance use and abuse among college students is often a misguided way to cope with anxiety, depression and the stressors of college life
  • Research shows that the most abused substance is alcohol and that a large number of college students engage in binge drinking

Signs that a student may have a substance problem include

  • Repeat failure to handle academics, work or personal responsibilities & relationships
  • A pattern of unexplained underachievement
  • Substance-related disciplinary or legal problems such as assault, driving under the influence, and date rape
  • Denial of the negative and harmful consequences of substance use, even in the face of serious problems

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton Adapted from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

The Severely Disoriented or Psychotic Student

What to Do

  • Speak to the student in a direct and concrete manner regarding your plan for getting them to a safe environment.
  • If possible, contact SPCS before walking over to SPCS.
  • Accompany the student to SPCS or arrange a public safety escort to SPCS, or a local hospital emergency room if the student is highly impaired.
  • Recognize that psychotic states can involve extreme emotion or lack of emotion and intense fear to the point of paranoia.
  • Recognize that a student in this state may be dangerous to self or others.


  • Assuming the student will be able to care for him/herself
  • Agitating the student
  • Arguing with unrealistic thoughts
  • Assuming the student understands you
  • Allowing friends to care for the student without getting professional consult
  • Getting locked into one way of dealing with the student, be flexible.
  • Assuming the family knows about the student’s condition

Facts about Psychotic Thinking

The main feature of psychotic thinking is poor reality testing or “being out of touch with reality.”

Symptoms include:

  • Disorganized speech and behavior
  • Extremely odd or eccentric behavior
  • Inappropriate or complete lack of emotion
  • Bizarre behavior that could indicate hallucinations
  • Strange beliefs that involve a serious interpretation of reality
  • Social withdrawal
  • Inability to connect with or track normal communications

Psychological illnesses that involve psychotic features often have an onset between the late teens and early 30s. 

Bipolar disorder involves periods of serious depression combined with periods of extreme euphoria and frenzied thinking and behavior, the latter of which can reflect poor reality testing. 

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton Adapted from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

The Suicidal Student

What to Do

  • Talk to the student in private
  • Remain calm and stay in control
  • Take the student’s disclosure as a serious plea for help
  • Ask the student directly about feelings and plans. It’s okay to ask if they are thinking about or have plans to kill themselves.
  • Express care and concern, and assure the student that you will help him/her reach a professional
  • Escort the student to SPCS, 410 N. Glassell (next to Public Safety) phone number (714) 997-6778
  • Call Public Safety (714) 997-6763 (on campus) or 911 for after hours or weekends if student has made an attempt or you do not feel the student will be safe leaving you
  • File a SCIT (Student Concerns Intervention Team) report if the student expressed suicidal thoughts, yet denies any current plan to kill themselves and you are concerned for the student (listen to your gut).


  • Minimizing the situation as all threats need to be considered potentially lethal
  • Arguing with the student about the merits of living
  • Allowing friends to assume responsibility for the student without getting input from a professional
  • Assuming the family knows the student has suicidal thoughts

Facts about Suicide

Although suicide is a rare event, it is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students.  Suicidal states are often associated with major depression, a combination of acute anxiety and depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.  Suicidal people often tell people about their thoughts or give clues to others about their feelings.

Factors associated with suicide risk are:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Pessimistic view of the future
  • Intense feelings of hopelessness, especially when combined with anxiety
  • Feelings of alienation and isolation
  • Viewing death as a means of escape from distress
  • Personal or family history of depression or psychosis
  • Personal family history of suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse
  • History of self-mutilation

Students who are at high risk usually have a specific plan, have a means that is lethal (e.g., medication, knife, gun), and tend to be or feel isolated.  A suicidal student who confides in someone is often ambivalent about suicide and open to discussion.

Need Help? Contact SPCS (714) 997-6778 or

Adapted from Cal State Fullerton and from University of Maryland Counseling Center.

Contact Us

Phone: (714) 997-6778
Fax: (714) 744-7940

410 N. Glassell St.
(House between Public Safety & Student Health)

8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
(Closed 12 p.m.-1 p.m.)

SPCS After Hours
Consultation and Crisis Services
(714) 997-6778

Concerned about a student?

Please report your concerns to help keep our campus healthy and safe.  

Student Concern Intervention Team