Parents and Guardians Information
Parents and guardians continue to play a vital role in the lives of their college-aged children. You probably know your son or daughter better than anyone else does, so you will likely notice changes in mood or behavior that may indicate emotional or psychological distress. Since students tend to turn to their parents when it comes to making important decisions, your suggestion to consider counseling can be very influential. This section is designed to help you to do the following:
- Become familiar with signs that indicate your son or daughter is having difficulties of an emotional or psychological nature.
- Learn how to respond effectively when your child approaches you with problems.
- Learn the steps for making an effective referral.
Signs of Distress
When a young person leaves for college, it is natural for him or her to experience changes in behavior, mood, and values. While these changes may lead to occasional disagreements or some temporary discomfort within the family, they are not necessarily signs that a student is having a psychological problem. However, the behaviors listed below may indicate cause for concern.
Changes in Academic Performance
- Poor academic performance, particularly if such behavior represents a change from the past
- Excessive absences from class
- Confusion or uncertainty about interests, abilities, or values
- Listlessness, lack of energy, complaints about fatigue
- Marked changes in personal hygiene
- Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts
- Aggressive or threatening behavior
- Extreme mood changes or inappropriate displays of emotions
- Excessive crying
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Preoccupation with food or body image
- Bizarre behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality
Changes in Relationships
- Death of a family member or close friend
- Difficulties in romantic relationships
- Problems with family members, friends, or roommates
References to Suicide
- Overt references to suicide or statements of hopelessness or helplessness
- Indications of prolonged unhappiness
- Pessimism about the future
Guidelines for Responding
- Talk to your son or daughter as soon as you notice something unusual; don’t ignore atypical or disturbing behavior.
- Express your concern in a caring manner and indicate the specific behaviors that are causing you to worry.
- Use “I” language that focuses on what you have noticed or what you are feeling.
- Talk to your son or daughter in private when you both have enough time for a conversation.
- Don’t bring up your concerns in the heat of an argument.
- Listen attentively, observing nonverbal as well as verbal responses.
- Avoid being critical or judgmental.
- Encourage positive action by helping your son or daughter define the problem and possible ways of handling it; avoid the temptation to solve the problem for him or her.
- Ask directly how you can best help.
- Know your limits as a help-giver. Parents can do a lot, but sometimes professional help is needed.
- Be a good role model by seeking help for yourself.
Making a Referral
Many students are initially hesitant about seeking counseling. When you have decided that professional counseling is indicated, tell your son or daughter directly and clearly why you are making the referral.
Counseling is provided to all students enrolled in a degree program. Each student may have up to 15 individual counseling sessions per academic year. If a student has difficulties that cannot be adequately addressed in this time frame, we may suggest other resources that would be more appropriate.
All Counseling Center staff members have experience helping students with a wide range of concerns. Although we will do our best to honor a student’s preference to see a specific counselor, it may result in a longer wait time; therefore, it is preferable to refer students to the Counseling Center rather than to a specific counselor. You are welcome to call the Center and let us know that you have referred your son or daughter.
- Review information about the counseling process with students using the Counseling Center website. Emphasize that services are confidential and free.
- You might suggest that the student attend one session before judging whether counseling is helpful or not. For those students who are hesitant, point out that using appropriate resources is a sign of strength and maturity.
- Except in the case of imminent danger to self or others, it is important to allow your son or daughter to refuse counseling. Just because he or she might not follow through immediately doesn’t mean that the suggestions aren’t being considered.
- While it is preferable for the student to take the step of making an appointment on his or her own, the counseling staff are willing to speak with parents about how to encourage the student to do so.
Please note: If you think your son or daughter is in imminent danger of harming themselves or someone else, please call the Office of Public Safety at (610) 330-4444. The College’s Behavioral Health and Safety Review team will be contacted to assess the situation and to intervene as appropriate.
The Counseling Center staff members are required by law and by professional ethics to protect the confidentiality of all contacts with students. The only exceptions occur in cases of imminent danger to self or others or direct reports of child abuse. Without a student’s written permission, we cannot discuss the content of counseling sessions or the fact that he or she is a client of the Counseling Center. These requirements are in effect even when a parent has made the original referral to the Center. However, as long as we have a student’s permission, we are more than happy to speak with parents about their concerns.
If you have any questions about the services offered by the Center, please feel free to call (610) 330-5005 and request to speak with a counselor.
For those students who wish to seek counseling from an off-campus mental health professional, we offer a referral guide for psychologists in the Lehigh Valley.
Students who are interested in receiving an evaluation for medication are encouraged to consult with the physicians in the Bailey Health Center who coordinate appointments with a consulting psychiatrist (610.330.5001.)
A number of career and psychological tests are offered to students at no charge. The Counseling Center does not provide testing for learning disabilities.
Bailey Health Center, Second Floor
Monday–Friday: 8:45 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed for lunch: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Phone (610) 330-5005
Fax (610) 330-5728