The Student Who Discloses Distress
Students have many interactions with faculty and staff in multiple settings. Given the number of interactions, a student who is experiencing emotional difficulties might disclose personal information. The following guidelines may be useful in determining how to respond to a student disclosure.
- Be aware of your department and university responsibilities. Your department might have a policy for how to respond to student distress. This is important to know in advance. The University also has a set of guidelines for responding to potentially dangerous students. That information can be accessed from the Office of Student Life.
- Include support services (Office of Student Life, Counseling Services, Academic Assistance Center, Student Access Center, Lafene Health Center, SafeZone, etc.) in your syllabus.
- If you’re concerned about a student, it may be helpful to inform the Office of Student Life about your concerns.
- Be prepared to provide an alternative assignment or way of responding. Should a particular assignment emotionally trigger a student, it might be important to provide an alternative assignment. In this case, it will be useful to consult with the Student Access Center.
- Ask questions before responding. Asking questions can help to clarify the situation and ensure effective communication.
- Consult with a professional or co-worker. There are many ways to respond to a situation, it can be helpful to receive consultation from another individual to receive support and explore possible avenues of responding. The Counseling Services or Office of Student Life staff is available to consult with you.
- Set appropriate limits. It may be necessary to set limits with students regarding appropriate conduct and/or disclosure.
- Use reflective statements. Responding reflectively assists in the communication process by allowing the individual to feel understood.
- Provide a referral for counseling and follow-up. It is important to provide a space for students to talk with a professional who can provide support and intervention It may be helpful to follow-up with the student.
- Ignore the situation. Taking no action reinforces the student’s already shaky perception that s/he has been wronged. Ignoring the student may also have legal implications.
- Overreact. Instead, listen, support, and guide the student to appropriate resources.
Counseling Services, Kansas State University – adapted from information by UC-Davis Counseling and Psychological Services