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Information for Staff

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The Counselling Service supports the primary academic task of the University College by ensuring that students gain maximum benefit from their education at Stranmillis University College. 

A highly qualified professional Counsellor provides a free and confidential service to any student who is in difficulty or who has concerns that they need to discuss.  The Counsellor works with the student to facilitate self-awareness and to develop coping strategies to help deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life.  Issues that are brought to the Counsellor include personal, social or welfare issues.  Support is particularly available at times of crisis.

The University College Counsellor has plenty of experience with supporting students with the particular difficulties that arise in an academic environment.  Outcome studies have demonstrated that counselling can be a key factor in enabling a student to successfully complete their studies.

Cause for Concern

All members of staff can use the Cause for Concern form when they are concerned about a student's well-being.  Using this form will ensure that students in difficulty will be contacted by the Student Support Officer who will invite them to use the services available.

Responding to Student Emergencies

On very rare occasions a student may present in a state of extreme distress.  When a student is in a very distraught state you should follow the University College's guidelines for Helping Students in Distress.

Reference to Suicide

Any reference to suicide must be taken as extremely serious and immediate referral to the following services is critical:

Counselling Service - Tel: 028 90384513
Occupational Health - Tel: 028 90384446
Security - Tel: 028 90384356 or 028 90384340
Emergency Services - Tel: 999
The Samaritans - Tel: 028 9066 4422

General Guidelines for Referring a student

Decisions about whether to refer a student on, and when to do so, can be difficult ones to make.  Questions you may need to ask yourself include:

  • do you feel out of your depth with the issues the student is bringing to you?
  • do you have enough time to help?
  • do you feel you have gone as far as you can with the student?
  • have your attempts so far not worked out?
  • is there a conflict between supporting the student and your academic role?
  • is the student's problem one you personally find difficult?
  • does the student's behaviour clash with your ethical or moral code?
  • do you find it hard to be objective about the student's situation?
  • are you concerned that the student may be seriously disturbed?

If a student says or implies "You're the only one who can help" this is often a good indicator that it is time to involve someone else.  Feeling you have sole responsibility for a student's wellbeing can be very onerous.

If you are not sure whether or not to refer a student, or simply need to talk through your concerns, you are very welcome to discuss the situation with the counsellor.  You can do this without mentioning the student's name, to preserve confidentiality.

How to Refer

It may be clear from the outset that you can do little to help a student and need to refer them on straight away, having clarified with them the nature of the help they need.  Students often have a number of problems, and they may need to sort out practical issues such as debt or accommodation difficulties as well as being referred for counselling.

If you have been working with a student for some time, referring them on can be more complex.  You need to explain why you are suggesting that they seek help elsewhere, so they do not feel that you are rejecting them.  Again, you need to be clear if you are going to continue to offer support, and what the limitations of that support might be.

It is important to:

  • listen to what they have to say;
  • ask them what they want, eg someone to listen, long-term support, practical action;
  • try to assess the situation and the student's needs in the light of what you and the Counselling Service can offer.  (If in doubt, please discuss this with the Counselling Service);
  • discuss with the student a possible plan of action;
  • encourage the student to decide what is best for them out of the options available.  If a student agrees that counselling might be helpful, make sure that they know where the Service is located, and how to make an appointment.  Rather than making the arrangements yourself, it is usually best to encourage the student to make an appointment, so that they are clear that this is their own choice.