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Refer a Student

Whenever you encourage a student to make use of CAPS services, it is very helpful to CAPS staff to know why, and any background information you may have. There are several ways to convey this information to CAPS. If you are worried about the student's well-being, we encourage you to fill out on online Conveying a Concern Form, that will be routed in a highly secure way to the appropriate dean's office (NOTE: there does NOT have to be any particular "incident" in order to use this form; it is intended to be used to convey any type of concern). If the information on the form includes mental health concerns, the dean's office will forward a copy to CAPS.

How to Refer a Student to CAPS

The simplest way is to offer the student information (e.g., a flyer or brochure) about CAPS and recommend whatever services you or they think may be appropriate.

  1. Convey your concern for the student's well-being.
  2. Explain what you have heard or observed that makes you concerned about the student.
  3. Recommend one or more possible referrals, explaining why these resources may be helpful.
  4. Tell the student as much as you can about CAPS.
  5. If you want to give the student the name of a CAPS staff member, try to give them two or three names (otherwise the student may not be willing to meet with anyone else, even though another counselor could see them sooner).
  6. Involve the student in the referral decision in a collaborative way, if possible.
  7. Help the student make the initial contact with CAPS, if needed.

Please also send relevant referral information you happen to know about to CAPS (and the appropriate dean's office), as mentioned above, via the Conveying a Concern Form.

Suggestions for What to Say

Although it is best to use your own wording and style, it is often helpful to say things like:

  • "It may help to talk with a mental health professional about the things that are bothering you. Did you know that counseling at CAPS is confidential, and free of charge?"
  • "I'm worried about you because you seem so distressed. I'd like to call CAPS to make an emergency appointment for you to be seen as soon as possible, okay?"
When to Make a Referral
  • When there are indications of a possible acute crisis or emergency (e.g., signs of depression or suicidal thoughts; threats of harming someone; seems out of touch with reality; victim of a traumatic event; possible alcohol or drug dependency; judgment and/or ability to care for self seems greatly impaired). See what to do in an emergency.
  • When the student's problem or concern requires greater skill or training than you have (e.g., when the student needs more than just someone to listen to them).
  • When there is a more appropriate office or person to handle the problem.
  • When the student's concerns are taking up too much of your time.
  • When it may be a conflict of interest for you to be involved.
  • When there is a values conflict that will make it difficult for you to discuss the situation objectively.
  • When you are very uncomfortable with the student and/or with the nature of her/his concern.
  • When you find yourself taking on the student's problems as if they were your own; or when the student's problems stir up or intensify your own issues.
  • When the student seems reluctant to talk with you.
  • When you have a "gut feeling" that something is just not right.
Possible Problems and Considerations
  • The student may feel rejected or abandoned by you. The way you make the referral (e.g., in a caring, compassionate way) can help defuse this possibility.
  • The student may have stated that she or he only wants to talk to you and no one else. Emphasize why CAPS staff may be better trained to handle their concerns, and why it would be in her/his best interests to get help from the most qualified source. 
  • The student may be afraid or reluctant to go to CAPS. Remind the student that about one third of UR students use CAPS services during their undergraduate years. Offer to help the student make the initial contact. If you are willing to do so, offer to accompany him/her on the initial visit to the office. 
  • The student may agree with the idea of going to CAPS, but then fail to follow through. Offering to call CAPS while the student is still in your office may help. It is important to follow-up and ask the student how it went, without prying for details. 
  • You may not know enough about various referral resources to be able to give the student a recommendation. This is a good reason to familiarize yourself with available student support services before a need arises. 
  • You may limit your recommendations to referrals that you would use, rather than inform the student about all of her/his options. Even if you have never benefitted from counseling yourself, try to be open to the possibility that counseling may be helpful to this student. 
  • You may not believe that anyone else can help the student but you. This is often a warning sign of a unhealthy dynamic that may be developing. In this case, it may be especially important to get another person or office involved.

Confidentiality Concerns

Except for certain rare legal situations, all information about student clients, including the fact that a student made an appointment at CAPS, is confidential and cannot be released to anyone else without the student's permission. (See Informed Consent for Counseling Services at CAPS and CAPS Privacy Practice Notice for more information).

If the student gives CAPS staff authorization to release information, we are happy to do so. Calling ahead, before the student comes to CAPS, to tell us that you would like to know if the student made and kept an appointment alerts our staff to seek permission from the student when we see her or him.

After the Referral

Once you submitted your concerns via the Conveying a Concern form, it can be helpful to follow-up with the student, after a period of time. You might consider one or more of the following steps:

  1. Ask the student how it went, without prying too much for information
  2. Continue to be supportive and inquire periodically how s/he is doing.
  3. Use the Conveying a Concern form again if you learn additional information that may be important or relevant.

CAPS staff can receive information from you, but cannot give you information (including whether or not the student even kept an appointment) without the student's written authorization.

When In Doubt, Consult With Us

If you are concerned about a student, but unsure of an appropriate course of action, CAPS staff are happy to consult with you.

Phone: (804) 289-8119

E-mail: CAPS@richmond.edu