Referral Guide for Parents - Colgate University Skip Navigation

Referral Guide for Parents

For most college students, their parents continue to play a critically important role in their lives.

While the college years typically present significant changes in the relationship between parent and child, research suggests that those students who maintain positive and trusting relationships with their parents experience fewer struggles in the areas of college adjustment and self-esteem, and tend to make better behavioral choices while at school.
We believe the college years ideally should be a time of increased independence and autonomy for students; however, we also recognize and respect the ongoing role parents will continue to play in their child’s life.

To this end, we offer the following information in the spirit of hoping that you will assist us in our efforts to be of service to your son or daughter.

Recognizing the signs of a potential problem

As a parent, you may have access to “information” that may be relevant to your son or daughter’s psychological well-being. The following verbal and behavioral signs may be suggestive of a potential problem:
  • Aggressive or threatening behavior
  • Social withdrawal, or other marked change in social habits
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, or exercise
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Excessive crying, emotionality, or mood changes
  • Marked changes in energy level (e.g., listlessness or hyperactivity)
  • Noticeable changes potentially associated with drinking or drug use
  • Increases in pessimism, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Bizarre behaviors (e.g., paranoia, strange speech patterns)
  • Change in academic habits (e.g., a historically hard-working student who seems not to care about school)
  • References to suicide or death
  • Any other behaviors or symptoms which represent a distinct departure from the behavior you’ve always seen from your child


General guidelines for how to respond

  • Don’t “put off until tomorrow….” Bring up issues and concerns with your son or daughter as soon as you begin to notice problems. Ignoring disturbing behavior is unlikely to “make it go away.”
  • Have a caring, concerned, nonjudgmental discussion in private, at a time and place that is conducive to a meaningful conversation.
  • Listen to your child at least as much as you talk to him/her.
  • Avoid the tendency to be critical or judgmental.
  • Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems, or to “take care of everything” for your son or daughter; rather, problem-solve with your child regarding specific actions he/she may take to confront his/her issue(s).
  • Know your own limits. Parents are an incredibly powerful part of a child’s life, but sometimes deferring to professional help is appropriate and necessary.

Making a referral to the Counseling Center

In many cases, your son or daughter may be hesitant regarding seeking professional help. You can encourage your child to seek assistance, by letting him/her know that seeking professional help is a positive and responsible thing to do rather than a sign of failure or weakness. You might try suggesting that your son or daughter “give counseling a try” by attending one session.

If, indeed, you have decided to recommend to your child that they seek our services (or other professional mental health services), be prepared to give specific information regarding how to make an appointment (by calling 315-228-7385 or stopping by the office) and our location (Conant House—a fieldstone house with dark green shutters behind Drake Hall and above the Bryan Complex). Realistically, your child may not immediately “hear” your concerns and may not follow through with a counseling referral. Patience on your part may be necessary.

If, however, there is clear and imminent danger to your child or somebody else, respond more aggressively by contacting Campus Safety at 315-228-7333.


Understanding Confidentiality

The Counseling Center adheres to state laws and the professional ethical standards that require that all client information be held in confidence. Except in emergency circumstances no one outside of the Counseling Center is given any information without the client’s consent. There are a few rare exceptions to confidentiality (outlined more extensively in the Confidentiality section of our website), which typically involve imminent danger to self or others. In general, clients can rest assured that our guiding principle is to respect a student’s right to confidentiality. These confidentiality requirements remain in effect even when a parent has made the referral for his/her child to the Counseling Center. While we maintain strict confidentiality, we will certainly listen to concerns about a student from interested parties, including, of course, parents.

*Special thanks to Fitchburg State College’s Counseling Services for the use of their material in preparing this guide.