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C O U N S E L I N G  S E R V I C E S


Helping the Distressed Student Responding to Student Emergencies
Managing the Distruptive Student Referring a Student to Counseling Services


Faculty and staff members are often the first to recognize a student in distress. While most students effectively negotiate the demands of college life, others find the stress and pressure overwhelming and difficult to manage. In addition to friends, family, clergy, etc., faculty and staff members are often the first point of contact and are an invaluable resource in assisting students who are struggling. We hope this page is helpful in guiding your intervention when you encounter a student you suspect or observe is having emotional difficulties.

Recognizing the Student in Distress

The following are common indicators that a student may be experiencing some difficulty:

  • Obvious changes in mood or behavior (depression, anxiety, tearfulness, withdrawal)
  • Restlessness, agitation
  • Threatening behavior/stalking
  • Change in grades, work habits, class attendance
  • Intoxication in class
  • Direct/indirect expressions of hopelessness/suicidal ideation
  • Submission of disturbing course material
  • Evidence of self harm
  • Poor self care (disheveled, poor grooming)
  • Irritability/outbursts/disinhibition
  • Bizarre behavior or speech
  • Significant weight changes

What You Can Do

  • Don’t ignore the situation. Talk to the student privately and be specific and non-judgmental about your observations that are troubling
  • Express concern and offer assistance (this should include referral to and/or information about Counseling Services)
  • Become familiar with Counseling Services so you can refer knowledgeably:
    ~ Services are free
    ~ Services are confidential
    ~ Counseling records are not part of student’s academic record
    ~ Provide some information about the counseling process and what student might gain from it
  • Make an effort to destigmatize help-seeking – securing help is an important skill and a sign of strength and initiative in solving a problem
  • Reassure student that making a referral is not a rejection – you are willing to help and are interested in maintaining some follow up contact, but it is best to outline honestly, the limits of your ability to provide ongoing assistance (limits of time, training, objectivity)
  • Avoid labeling the student or their behavior
  • Consider reporting concerns to the Behavioral Response Team (BRT - 212.772.4878) or Counseling staff, independent of the student's willingness to accept help

Helping Effectively

  • Monitor your own feelings and reactions – helping someone who is in distress can be stressful, anxiety provoking, and emotionally taxing. Seek support from colleagues and consultation from the Counseling Services Staff
  • Avoid promising secrecy to student – this could pose a dilemma - instead, reassure the student that you are trustworthy, you value their privacy, and you are committed to assisting in them in seeking further help
  • Recognize your limits:
    ~ It is not your responsibility to solve the problem for students - you are a valuable resource in helping him/her solve a problem
    ~ A student may need help beyond what you can/should provide and seeking the appropriate help beyond your scope should be encouraged
  • Do not ignore the following:
    ~ Student minimizes problem
    ~ Student has come to depend on you, thereby avoiding/disregarding importance of seeking alternate, more appropriate sources of help



While individual instructors may vary in the range of behavior that is tolerated, there should be clear limits set on behavior that interferes with teaching or learning, inhibits the regular operation of the campus, or threatens the physical or psychological health, safety or welfare of others.

Examples of Disruptive Behavior Include:

  • Excessive talking when others are speaking
  • Verbal badgering/interrupting
  • Sleeping in class
  • Cell phone/text use in class
  • Chronic tardiness/early departure
  • Cursing/using demeaning, derogatory language
  • Monopolizing
  • Refusal to take directions/respond to limits
  • Verbal/physical threats
  • Intoxication
  • Physical aggression


Elements in Effective Prevention and Early Intervention:

Clear Communication of Behavioral Expectations - At the beginning of each semester, it may be helpful to outline verbally, the expectations for behavior in the classroom. Determine the standard you wish to enforce and articulate your expectations clearly

Early Consultation/Referral - Do not hesitate to report your concerns to the Behavioral Response Team (BRT). The Team is designed, specifically, to collaborate with, and provide support and assistance to, the Hunter College Community

Documentation - Always maintain written documentation of disruptive behavior as well as your efforts to intervene - include names, dates, nature of the behavior and the intervention. Keep your department chair informed as well

Appropriate Responses:

  • Consider what consequences you will impose and respond to problems consistently
  • Give notice to students who disrupt
  • Don't ignore the behavior
  • Inform the student of the violation in specific and concrete terms
  • Inform the student of the consequences of continued disruption

Responses to Avoid:

  • Arguing with the student
  • Giving in to inappropriate requests
  • Accommodating inappropriately
  • Ignoring bad behavior
  • Allowing the student to intimidate you



Immediate and Decisive Intervention is Needed When Student Behavior Poses a Threat to Self or Others, Including:

  • Suicidal gestures, intentions or attempts
  • Other behavior posing a threat to student (drug abuse, hallucinations)
  • Threats or aggression directed toward others
  • Demonstrated inability to care for oneself

Campus Resources:

Public Safety: In the event of an emergency or matter which requires immediate attention (e.g. student is unmanageable, aggressive, threatening), Public Safety is the first-line contact.
Call 212.772.4444. Following contact with Public Safety, please make a referral to the BRT.

Behavioral Response Team: Concerns about a student's behavior and/or functioning should be referred to the BRT. Please
visit the BRT website for information about the Team's purpose and function.

Counseling Services: For consultation with a counselor, please call 212.772.4931 or walk student to office 1119E.


1) Suggest that the student call 212.772.4931 or visit Counseling Services located in 1119 East Building.

2) Offer to help the student make the initial appointment, or let the student call from your office. At times it may be helpful to accompany the student to the Counseling Services office.

3) Once the referral is made, communication between the student and the counselor is confidential, but you may be informed (typically with the student's permission) if the student attends the initial appointment.

4) Consider checking a week later with the student to see if he or she has followed through with the appointment.

5) Call or email us to discuss any concerns or question you have. We are also available for consultation.

Download the "Students in Crisis - A Quick Reference" (PDF) for simple guidelines and convenient access to referral contact information.

Δ When our office is closed (and in all cases of emergency), please call Public Safety - 212.772.4444



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Contact Us



t: 212.772.4931
Room 1119, East Building
t: 212.772.4800
f: 212.650.3254 / 212.396.6703
Room 307, North Building
t: 212.650.3397
Room 307, North Building

Δ  For assistance after 5:00 pm, or in the case of an on-campus emergency, please call Public Safety at 212.772.4444.
Δ  In the case of an off-campus emergency, call 911.


Counseling Services
Office Hours & Contact Info
Monday - Friday:
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
t: 212.772.4931
Room 1119, East Building

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