Dealing With Students' Personal
Developmental advising is about forming a relationship as a human being
with your advisees. When they present you with difficult problems, you
are then able to draw on that relationship to give them sympathy and
comfort, and persuade them to go to the appropriate person for help. If
you listen and then refer them on effectively, you will have done your
advisee a tremendous service. And remember: when in doubt, call the Dean
of Students Office to talk it over, since you certainly should not
tackle difficult situations on your own.
Faculty are not expected to provide personal counseling. Being human,
however, you are already "trained" to deal appropriately with the
emotional issues of your advisees. When a student chooses to talk to you
about a personal problem, you should congratulate yourself (instead of
experiencing a sinking heart) for having done a good job as an adviser;
you have succeeded in establishing a relationship of trust and
When a student tells
you about a personal problem, here are suggestions for how to proceed:
Listen and respond as
a compassionate human being.
questions are often helpful since there probably is no simple
answer; refrain from offering advice or suggestions unless
specifically asked. Let the student know you have heard what has
emotions that the student is expressing.
Be careful not to
reveal negative reactions.
Explain that this is
not your area of expertise, but that you will listen, help as much as
you can, and/or try to get them help from someone who is an expert in
When the situation is appropriate, refer the student on.
Give the student
several options of places and/or people that s/he can go to for
assistance. If you’re not sure, call the Dean of Students’ Office
(2114) for advice. In most cases of personal and emotional turmoil,
the student should be referred to the Bridgeway counselors (2114)
that MC keeps on campus forty hours per week. Ask if he/she has
talked to a counselor before, and if so, what the experience was
like. If the student has reservations about seeing a counselor, you
may have to dispel these general misgivings before s/he is willing
to make an appointment to see a counselor. If the student agrees to
see a counselor, It is often helpful to make the appointment from
your office right away or, if you’re uncomfortable with this, to
refer the matter to the Dean of Students’ Office immediately; they
will make the appointment for the student.
It may help if you
offer to make the initial contact and explain the situation. Ask the
student to arrange the meeting right there so they know you truly
believe this should be their next course of action.
Let the student
know they can always come back to speak with you.
Make sure you follow
Perhaps you can
rely on bumping into the student around campus and remembering to
ask "how are things going now?"; perhaps it is sufficient to say,
"Stop by and let me know how your appointment went.” Still, you may
need to be very directive and establish a formal appointment time
for him/her to report back to you.
Report your concerns
to the Dean of Students Office if you feel there is a possibility the
student may harm him/herself or someone else.
This is a legal
and moral responsibility.
If the Dean and Associate Dean of Students are not available,
discuss this with the Dean of Students Office Secretary, who can
help you get connected with the appropriate person.
A student in
this condition (even if you are not sure how serious the situation
is) should not be left alone, even if it is a major inconvenience to