Parents and guardians continue to play a vital role in the lives of their college-aged student.

You probably know your student 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 student is having difficulties of an emotional or psychological nature.
  • Learn how to respond effectively when your student 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 them 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

Unusual Behavior

  • 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 student 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 student 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 student define the problem and possible ways of handling it; avoid the temptation to solve the problem for them.
  • 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.
  • Consider these steps you can take to help your student stay safe in the event of suicidal crisis.
  • 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 student directly and clearly why you are making the referral.

Short-term counseling is provided to all students enrolled in a degree program. If a student has difficulties that need more frequent and/or longer-term counseling to address adequately, 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 student.

  • 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 student to refuse counseling. Just because they 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 their own, the counseling staff are willing to speak with parents about how to encourage the student to do so.
  • Drop-in consultations are available each day between 10am-11:30am & 1pm-3:30pm; students are seen on a first come, first served basis for up to 30 minutes. Drop-in consults are ideal for students who have a pressing or time-sensitive concern who are not ready or interested in ongoing counseling.


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, reports of child abuse, or a court order. Without a student’s written permission, we cannot discuss the content of counseling sessions or the fact that they are 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.

Crisis Support Services

When the Counseling Center is closed, after-hours crisis support is available by calling (610) 330-5005. The College works with ProtoCall Services to provide crisis support and referrals.

Please note: If you think your student is in imminent danger of harming themselves or someone else, please call the Office of Public Safety at (610) 330-4444.

Local Behavioral Health Hospital:

Emergency Room at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg (610) 402-8000

2545 Schoenersville Road, BethlehemPA 18017

Peer-to-Peer Support

Togetherall is an online, peer-to-peer mental health community, moderated by registered mental health professionals, that empowers students to anonymously seek and provide support. The resource offers a safe space to connect with others experiencing similar feelings 24/7, 365 days a year. Togetherall also offers many creative tools and a wide range of self-guided courses to help students support their mental health and well-being.

Community Referrals

For those students who wish to seek counseling from an off-campus mental health professional, we offer referral consultations to help students locate treatment providers in the Lehigh Valley.

Psychiatric Services

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 and psychiatric nurse practitioner (610.330.5001).