Emergencies are defined by urgency and severity. Emergencies include:
- Expression of suicidal thoughts
- Expression of homicidal thoughts
- Severe loss of emotional control
- Bizarre behavior or extreme impairment in thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
In Case of Emergency:
Contact the Counseling Center at extension x3368 (607-436-3368) during working hours (8-4:30 M-F except 12-1). If the Counseling Center is closed or no one is available, phone University Police 24 hours/day at x3550 (607-436-3550). You can also call the 24-hour Crisis Line at 1-844-732-6228.
In case of less severe situations, where there is no concern about safety:
- Get support: Who else needs to be (or can be) involved? Who can you consult?
- Gather information: ask the reporter questions, when/who/what/where/how/why
- Define the problem: what makes it a crisis?
- What are the resources: what are the person’s current and potential sources of help?
- If it is not a situation that requires outside help, then focus on solutions:
- Emphasize negotiating: solutions may not be ideal.
- What needs to happen to make things better/calmer?
- What needs to be done (tasks)? What are the obstacles?
- Shorten the time frame: often people think about solving a huge problem all at once
- It may help to focus on getting a plan for the next few hours/days
- Write things down for the person in crisis, if there’s a plan
- Debrief: discuss what happened with someone – especially if it’s a major crisis
- Document: Keep a record of what happened and the plan
Brief Individual Therapy. Some students may benefit from brief treatment interventions with their counselor. The counselor can help the student identify what goals are appropriate for the brief treatment model and what counseling approach might be best for achieving that goal. In brief individual therapy the counselor and student work very hard together to help the student achieve change and progress towards their goals in a short amount of time. Students who benefit most from this type of therapy are ones who are motivated and ready to make change or do homework to get the most out of their individual counseling meetings. Some problems lend themselves to 1 or 2 appointments, whereas others may require a few sessions. The student and counselor work together to decide what approach is best.
Walk-in Counseling. Walk-in services are first-come, first-serve and are available Monday-Friday starting at 1:30pm when classes are in session. Walk-in counseling services are intended to remove barriers and increase access to therapeutic interventions by enabling students to see a trained clinician at their chosen moments of need. Walk-in Counseling provides quick access to a trained clinician; focuses on the student’s immediate needs or goals for the meeting; works to help you find solutions and create a plan to address your concern and can connect you to other services and resources as needed. During walk-in the counselor generally takes a “One-at-a-time” approach to counseling with the goal of maximizing the benefits of each session of counseling and with recognition that each session might be a student’s last.
Crisis Counseling. The Counseling Center reserves times daily for crisis counseling. We strive to be responsive to students in crisis, and when necessary we also will interrupt or defer other less urgent appointments or duties. Be sure to identify to the receptionist if the student is in need of a crisis appointment.
Group Counseling. The Counseling Center offers the opportunity for group counseling for students. Group counseling provides unique learning and support services for its members. Bringing together people with similar therapeutic goals helps students connect with other students in similar situations and advance their learning about the goal.
Telepsychology and Telepsychiatry. SUNY Oneonta has received a grant from SUNY to participate in a telepsychology and telepsychiatry pilot program. Through this grant program, students can come for counseling or psychiatric appointments and communicate via an encrypted video-chat software with a provider at SUNY Upstate Medical Hospital in Syracuse NY. Medication providers then send any prescription to a local pharmacy. Services through this grant are free but do have a waitlist at times and the program is designed to support short-term weekly treatment for counseling.
- If you are concerned about a student or situation but are unsure of how to proceed, call the Counseling Center. Faculty and staff can consult with Counseling Center staff for various purposes, such as obtaining information about mental health problems, how to handle personal issues students are disclosing, or how to encourage a student to seek counseling. To consult with a staff member, call 436-3368 and ask for the first available counselor, or you may ask for a specific counselor if you have a counselor preference. Please specify how urgent your request is, as schedules can be re-arranged as necessary to accommodate crises. The counselor will ask about background information and about what kind of assistance you are looking for, and then provide recommendations. Consultations are not legally confidential because the legal privilege extends only to clients; however, we use our discretion regarding what information we share and we do our best to discuss confidentiality with faculty and staff when they consult with us. There may be some situations where information from a consultation would be shared with others, including the Student Development team that meets in regard to distressed or disturbed students. We would make every effort to discuss this with you in such situations.
- The Counseling Center provides educational and outreach programs to faculty, staff, and students throughout the year. These programs encompass a wide variety of mental health and wellness topics. Examples of topics include an introduction to services, stress management, coping with crises, depression, anxiety, alcohol and other drug information, alcohol social norms information, homesickness, dream interpretation, test anxiety, and suicide prevention. Availability for programs may vary depending on the time of the semester and overall student counseling demands. To request a program call x3368 and explain your request to the receptionist, who will direct your request to the appropriate counselor or the Director, who will return your call.
Referral Service for Medication or other Student Needs
- The Counseling Center makes a referral to many types of services in the campus and Oneonta community. For psychotropic medications, the Counseling Center typically refers student to the Health Center for evaluation. More information about medications. For students who may want or need longer-term and/or specialized therapy services, the Counseling Center provides referrals to therapists in the Oneonta community; these may be therapists in private practice or in lower-cost community clinics. Referrals may be to on-campus offices such as career services, Academic Advisement, and Financial Aid, or to various student clubs and organizations to increase students’ social or co-curricular involvement.
General warning signs of students in distress are listed below. It can be helpful to think of students in the follow categories, which may overlap:
Distressed: the student is upset but not beyond a normal level and not having a particularly significant effect on many others. With these students, it can be helpful to have a brief conversation indicating that you see that they are upset, and mention the possibility of counseling (see section below on referral).
Disturbed: the student is clearly having significant problems in their functioning, is behaving in an unusual way, or is highly distraught. As with distressed students, it is helpful to state what you have observed about their behavior – it is also a good idea to make a stronger case for counseling, for example saying that you really hope they will give it a try and that you believe it could help them.
Disturbing: the student is significantly upsetting to others around him or her. This may be concerned others trying to help, or simply others in proximity to the student who are negatively affected by the students behavior. In this situation is important not only to encourage the student to seek help for his or her own sake, but also to address their impact on others. This can be done initially through individual conversations about their impact on others and discussions about appropriate guidelines for, or limits on, their behavior. It may also be helpful to contact your Department Chair or the Counseling Center for further consultation, and/or to contact the Judicial Office if the student is creating a significant disturbance.
Dangerous: the student implicitly or explicitly makes comments indicating he or she is a threat to self or others. In this situation it is important to get assistance as soon as possible. Faculty and staff can call University Police at x3550, or Student Development at x2513 or the Counseling Center at x3368. See also above on Emergencies and Crisis. If the student has made a direct or explicit reference to harming self or others, it is particularly important to contact someone for assistance immediately.
- Inability to choose courses
- Unwillingness to take required courses
- Reference to problems with motivation for school
- Career indecision
- Focus shifts from coursework to personal issues
- Excessive procrastination
- Missing class or frequently late to class
- Inconsistent work or uncharacteristically poor work
- Repeated requests for special consideration
- Test anxiety
- Over-dependent on advisor
- Avoidance of instructors or other students
- Inattentive to typical social rules or roles
- Complaints from peers
- Loud, angry, or highly talkative in interactions
- Change in personal hygiene
- Frequent sleeping in class
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Irritability, sadness, or grandiosity in mood
- Garbled or impaired speech
- Indications of drinking or other drug use
There are many ways to bring up a referral possibility. Based on Counseling Center surveying of student clients, we found that students dislike being told that they “need to go” or that they “have a problem.” Instead, they preferred that the referring person offer something positive about how “counseling could really help” or how the Counseling Center is “a great, safe place to go to talk about your stress.” A good way to bring up Counseling is simply to say, “You seem very stressed. Did you know we have a Counseling Center right here on campus? It’s also free and confidential.”
Other tips for making successful referrals include:
- Affirm the student for being aware of important matters affecting their academics
- Lead with care for the student (“I’m concerned” vs. “you have a problem”)
- Normalize problems, assure them they’re not alone
- Suggest counseling: “Do you know we have a Counseling Center on campus?”
- Normalize help-seeking, “About 500 students/year go to the Counseling Ctr”
- Be positive about how nice/effective/helpful/safe the counselors are
- Define your role: not a counselor; emphasize counselor expertise
- Make it personal: If you can name a counselor, say, “I know a good counselor for you”
- Offer to help with referral: give CC number, offer to call CC to give info
- If it’s a crisis, insist: “I strongly recommend…” “Let’s call over there now."
- Elicit objections to referral and discuss with them (see below).
Students may have reasons for not wanting to go to counseling that turn out to be false alarms or unrealistic worries. Or they may be realistic fears but can still be overcome through some explanation. Ask if there’s a reason they might not go and then try to address that concern.
|“Is it confidential?”||“Yes, unless your safety or a child’s safety is at stake.”|
|“My parents made me go.”||“It’s different now, it’s your choice and it’s private.”|
|“It’s weak to go.”||"It’s strong to know when to ask for help." &
“Counseling can help you to feel stronger.”
|“It’s embarrassing.”||“Most people find it relieving to share their problems.”|
|“Have to talk to a stranger.”||“You may like talking to someone outside the situation.”|
|“I like talking to you(advisor)”||“I like you too, but a professional will serve you better.” &
“I want to do the best for you, i.e. refer you to someone qualified.”
Confidentiality status of information students have given in counseling: Counseling information is confidential and can only be disclosed with written permission to release information, or in the event of a life-threatening crisis or child abuse. If you are calling about a student who has told you she or he is in counseling, please understand that the counselor who consults with you will not give any information about the student. A counselor can still consult based on the information the YOU give to them.
Confidentiality status of the information a faculty or student member provides: A faculty or staff member may give information freely to a counselor because that information is being shared only within the institution; such disclosure is not a FERPA violation. The Counseling Center keeps a record of the consultation, which is generally not considered part of the educational record. The important point is to provide information that will help students and potentially safeguard them. Will that information be passed along to others? Usually no, though it depends on the situation. We at the Counseling Center usually do not have to pass information along to others; we make recommendations and help manage the situation. Some situations, especially high-risk situations, could involve informing others and this would be done within legal parameters. (Because faculty and staff are not counseling clients, the information they provide is not legally protected in the same way student disclosures are; however, in most situations the counselor can honor a faculty or staff member’s request to keep the information private.)
For legal, ethical, and personal reasons, it is important for faculty and staff to understand the boundaries and limits to helping students in psychological distress. Students may disclose very personal information to faculty and staff, and these disclosures may occur abruptly, as in a crisis situation, or more gradually over and extended period of time. Faculty and staff may have varying degrees of comfort with listening and responding to such information. The following principles are important in negotiating the limits of your role while potentially still being helpful to the student.
Understand your role versus the role of a mental health professional: Your role as a faculty or staff member is not to diagnose or treat the student for their mental health problems. You may be able to listen and reflect, and even provide some feedback on everyday life problems if you are comfortable doing so. These acts of listening and mentoring can be immensely helpful to students. However, mental health problems may require the treatment of a trained professional; if you have questions about when this is occurring, please call the Counseling Center to consult. (Even if a faculty or staff member is a licensed mental health professional, it is still not within their role at the institution to serve this function as a faculty or staff member).
Do not promise to keep secrets: if a student says, “Do you promise not to tell anyone?” do not say yes. It is better to say something like, “Some things I can keep private but I can’t promise in advance to keep everything you tell me secret.” If you agree to keep secrets you may be setting yourself up for a bind where you need to share the information but have given your word not to.
Ask about what the student wants: This helps to give a direction to the conversation, especially if you are unsure of where it is going or uncomfortable about the disclosure. Sometimes students simply want an extension on an assignment, or they want to know where to go for help, or they may want to have told someone but don’t want anything more than that. You can say something like, “I appreciate you sharing this with me: I’m wondering where you were hoping the conversation would end up?” “What were you hoping the outcome of this conversation would be?”
Get consultation from the Counseling Center and/or a Supervisor: There’s a saying among counselors “when in doubt, consult early and consult often.” Talking to someone early can help you to respond more effectively, set limits, or protect yourself in complex situations: It can also be helpful to let your supervisor know about difficult or complex situations to get their guidance and support.
Be aware of your own limits: Individual faculty and staff may have personal limits to their comfort level in listening to others in distress. Faculty and staff may very well run into these limits before they hit the ethical or legal limits on help-giving. If you are getting uncomfortable, pay attention to this sign and set limits with the student, and/or refer the student for counseling.
Be aware of general indicators of boundary-crossing: There are many signs that student may be crossing into your personal boundaries or asking more of you than is appropriate. Possible signs include: asking for special time outside office hours, asking to meet you outside the college setting, calling you at home, asking for rides or money, or asking you about your personal life. While any one of these signs may or may not be a cause for alarm, consider the overall situation and where your personal boundaries are.
Know how and when to refer: Consider a referral when a student is telling you about personally distressing situations that are intense, severe, or ongoing, particularly when they are having difficulty managing the situation(s). Consider a referral also when you as a faculty or staff member are feeling worried, uncomfortable, or unsure how to respond to a student’s disclosures. For information on tips for how to refer a student, follow this link.
Check out our Resources page for on-line assistance according to topic, relaxation exercises, and screening assessments.
The Counseling Center works in collaboration with Student Disability Services but they are separate offices. The Counseling Center can assist students with disabilities to manage their academic and personal lives but does not have a role in determining disability accommodations. The students with Disabilities Services provide consultation to faculty and staff about accommodations for students with psychiatric and learning disabilities as well as other disabilities. Students with disabilities may benefit from referrals to both offices for their distinct services. If a faculty or staff member believes a student may have an undiagnosed disability, the student can be referred to the Student Disability Office for more information about assessment and possible disability services.
In some instances, students request documentation for faculty or staff that they have been seen at the Counseling Center and/or that they suffer from some psychological condition. The Counseling Center does provide such documentation but states clearly to the student, and in the documentation itself, that it the document is never intended to act as an excuse from class attendance or to ensure an extension on an assignment. The following statement should appear on all such documentation:
“When students ask us at the Counseling Center to write a letter to an instructor, we explain to the student that our main role is to verify information that the student him or her self directly tells the instructor. We encourage the student to speak directly with instructors. We also want to make it clear to the student and instructors that we are not pressuring instructors as to how to they handle academic affairs. Our role is to verify/corroborate, and sometimes to explain or make suggestions if asked to do so.”
Faculty and Staff in need of counseling can obtain referral information through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) program. The Counseling Center does not provide counseling services directly to faculty or staff.