How to Refer a Distressed Student

Staff and Office Information

  • Gary Petiprin, Ph.D., Director (x8469) (email)
  • Melissa Gibson, Psy.D, Assistant Director (x8466) (email)
  • Office Phone: 502.272.8480
  • 2120 Newburg Rd. (Nolen C. Allen Hall), Suite 403

About the Counseling Services

Bellarmine University Counseling Center provides short-term personal counseling, assessment, consultation, and referral services. The counselors on staff are all trained mental health professionals. Any currently enrolled student at Bellarmine University is eligible to receive counseling services. Counseling services are free of charge and confidential. Our standard office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (some evening hours available – call for more information).

Identifying Students Who May Benefit From a Referral

The following behavioral indicators may help in identifying a student who is distressed and might benefit from counseling services:

Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior
  • Poor performance or preparation (particularly if previous performance has been good)
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Avoiding participation
  • Excessive anxiety when called upon, giving a speech, or taking a test
  • Exaggerated or inappropriate emotional response to an event or situation
Unusual Behavior or Appearance
  • Depressed or lethargic mood (head down, avoidance of eye contact)
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Change in personal hygiene or dress
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
Talking About Suicide, Homicide or Death
  • Overt references to suicide or off-handed remarks about suicide (even if said jokingly)
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Homicidal threats or off-handed threatening remarks
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
  • Coming to class or meetings intoxicated
  • Missing classes due to hangover
  • Engaging in high-risk or violent behavior while intoxicated
Stating a Need for Help
  • Students may directly tell you about their feelings of stress, confusion, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, etc. They may look to you for answers or direction.

How To Make a Referral For Psychological Counseling

  • Do not attempt to make a referral when a student is too upset or confused to listen to you. Simply stay with the student and wait until he/she has calmed down enough to listen and respond to your suggestions.
  • Be direct in letting the student know that you believe that he/she would benefit from meeting with a professional counselor.
  • Inform the student that the services are strictly confidential, are provided by experienced and credentialed professionals, and are a benefit of being a student at the university (i.e. are free to the student).
  • Don’t force the issue if the student is defensive or resistant to your suggestion. Simply restate your position and explore any misconceptions about counseling. People are often hesitant to seek counseling, particularly if they perceive a stigma associated with counseling. Let the student know that speaking with a counselor does not imply that he/she is “weak” or “crazy.
  • If the student is receptive, you can suggest that he or she schedule an appointment. A student may arrange an appointment by calling our main number (502.272.8480). Typically, a counselor will conduct a brief triage assessment and arrange an appointment. The student must be the person to arrange the appointment.
  • It is sometimes helpful to offer to accompany the individual to the first session, particularly if the student is distraught, but this should be the student’s decision.
  • If you are ever uncertain how to handle a situation, please call. We will be happy to consult with you.

Emergency Situations

Emergency situations (highly distraught, in jeopardy of harming self or others) are always highest priority and will always be accommodated. In emergency situations, please contact our main number and let us know that there is a emergency. If you are unable to reach someone directly (e.g. line is busy, after normal office hours), you can contact Campus Safety (502.272.7777) and a counselor will be contacted.

Comments About Confidentiality

As mental health professionals, we are under legal and ethical obligation to keep counseling information confidential. This means that we cannot tell anyone, including faculty or staff, if a student is receiving counseling services. There are only two situations in which we would be able to disclose information to you:

  1. If the student’s physical safety or the physical safety of others is at risk;
  2. When the student gives us written permission to communicate with you. If you would like feedback regarding the student, express that wish to the counselor and he/she will ask the student for permission to communicate with you.