The purpose of this guide 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.
If you believe that any of your students may need counseling or help, please contact 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 Personal Counseling to promote and enhance our students’ psychological health, learning, and social and career development.
Because PCC students come from diverse backgrounds, Personal Counseling attempts to meet each student at his or her level of needs, whether the student is in a crisis situation, is experiencing an increase in stress from a long-standing problem that interferes with success in college, or is anticipating forthcoming changes. Various direct and indirect services are available at no cost to enrolled students.
Our primary service is short-term individual psychological counseling. 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.
Faculty and Student Services Staff
First Line of Assistance for 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, students often perceive the faculty student services staff as the first point of contact in obtaining advice and support. Use this guide to help you best support your students and determine when professional services may be needed.
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 Personal Counseling. To prevent possible over-interpretation of a single or an isolated behavior, it is advisable to look for clusters of signs that 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 also to understand the intentions and feelings underlying the message. Listening involves hearing what your student says, noticing the tone they use, and observing their expressions and gestures. In fact, having someone listen attentively to an expression of a problematic feeling or thought is often a cathartic experience for the speaker which can even result in the individual feeling somewhat better.
References to Suicide
It is often necessary to distinguish between a theoretical or hypothetical discussion of suicide and a statement that reflects true personal anguish. However, if individuals talk about or alludes to details of how, when, or where they 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. It is extremely risky to conclude or assume that a student's suicidal talk is simply a bid for attention. 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.
Changes in Mood or Behavior
Inconsistent actions compared to normal behavior may indicate that someone is experiencing psychological distress. Students who withdraw from usual social interaction, demonstrate an unwillingness to communicate, commit asocial acts, have unexplained crying spells or outbursts of anger, or demonstrate unusual irritability may be suffering from symptoms associated with a psychological problem.
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are two of the more common psychological disturbances that can present significant problems for students. When these emotion states become severe, they can impair an individual’s normal functioning. When a student's ability to function in a normal manner is becoming heavily affected by anxiety or depression, some kind of professional assistance is recommended.
Students who experience tension-induced headaches, nausea, or other physical pains which have no apparent physical cause may be experiencing psychophysiological 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 problems.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Indications of excessive drinking or other substance abuses are almost always indicative of psychological problems. Frequent absences, tardiness, missed assignments, sleepiness, poor concentration, and inconsistent 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.
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 might benefit from Personal Counseling.
Personal 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 to assist in making a decision.
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 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 student;
- 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 reason; or
- 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 more time to think. You may wish to give the PCC Personal Counseling bookmark as a 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 Personal Counseling; this will help the student feel confident in your ability to help. With the student present, call the Personal Counseling office (x7273) and have him or her come directly to our office in Room L108. If appropriate, suggest, with their permission, that 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 the student did not continue to seek help.
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 Personal Counseling. In an emergency, please call Personal Counseling 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.
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. Personal Counseling strictly adheres to this policy.
If a faculty or staff member is interested in a student's contact with Personal Counseling, 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 Personal Counseling 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 stop by 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.