Information for Faculty & Staff

As a faculty or staff member interacting daily with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize struggling or distressed students. In fact, you may be the first person a student reaches out to for help. Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress and to make an initial intervention can have a significant impact on the student's well-being. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.

How do I tell if a student might benefit from some extra support?

While there is no simple method of identifying students in need of help, there are some signs to watch for as you interact with your students:

  • asking for help with personal problems
  • unusually frequent appointments to see you
  • difficulty getting along with other students
  • declining academic performance / missing class frequently
  • difficulty focusing on a specific topic / disorganized thinking or speech
  • disruptive behavior in class
  • references to difficulty sleeping or emotional disturbance
  • sadness / tearfulness
  • reference (however indirect) to suicide or homicide

What should I do if one of my students is struggling?

If you notice signs of distress, here are some suggestions for ways to respond:

  • Talk with the student privately to minimize embarrassment and defensiveness
  • Be honest and direct about what you have observed and what causes you concern
  • Focus on the specific behavior or words which have caused you concern. Don't try to diagnose
  • Be non-judgmental. Communicate care and compassion, while maintaining boundaries and limits appropriate to student and faculty/staff relationships
  • Ask what the student has tried to do to help himself/herself. Ask what the student thinks s/he needs to do
  • Do not promise confidentiality
  • Invite the student to consider talking with someone in the Broene Counseling Center

When should I refer a student to the Broene Counseling Center?

When the problems and requests of a student are beyond your level of competence or are not appropriate to be addressed within the context of a student-professor relationship, it is advisable to refer the student for counseling. Other reasons for referral would be personality differences interfering with your ability to work with the student or a student's expressed preference to speak with someone else. If you have reason to be concerned about the student's safety or the safety of others, contact the Broene Counseling Center (616-526-6123) or Campus Safety (616-526-3333).

How do I refer someone to the Broene Counseling Center?

To make a referral, provide the student with our phone number (616-526-6123) or e-mail address ( You can also direct them to our office on the third floor of the Spoelhof College Center, right next to the Residence Life office.

After I refer a student, can I get information about how it's going?

Confidentiality is a valuable and necessary part of the therapeutic relationship. Because of this, we will be unable to confirm that we have had any contact with your student unless we have their written permission to communicate with you. However, rest assured that we value your involvement with the student and will take any information from you very seriously. If you would like to find out how things are going with the student, it is best to do this by making a follow-up contact with them directly.

May I consult with a Broene counselor about a student concern?

Yes. Please feel free to call the front desk and ask for an available counselor. Although Broene counselors cannot legally and ethically share information with you about specific students, we are able to receive information from you and offer general advice.