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University Counseling Center

Resource for Faculty and Staff

Helping Distressed or Distressing Students

Purpose of this Guide and Role of Faculty and Staff


University of Rochester Counseling Center supports the academic mission of the college by providing services and programs that help students achieve their educational goals. Services are designed to improve skills and reduce the effects of emotional and interpersonal problems that interfere with learning. All fulltime UR students are eligible for the counseling services. These services address a wide range of student problems ranging from developmental concerns to more serious psychological difficulties.


You play a central role in student help-seeking efforts. First, you are often in a direct position to observe students and be aware of their behavior. Second, students frequently turn to informal help-givers like yourself to obtain advice and support. Although you are not expected to provide counseling, it is helpful for you to understand the critical role you can play in:

  • prevention of student problems
  • being familiar with the signs that indicate a student is in need of help
  • responding to student problems
  • understanding the steps in making appropriate referrals


The purpose of this guide is to assist you and others in the campus community in your efforts to respond to distressed or distressing students by providing the following:

  • information about student problems
  • information on the important role you play in responding to student problems
  • tips on how to respond to student problems
  • information about appropriate resources on campus that assist students with problems
  • guidelines on how to make referrals to appropriate individuals or departments

Guide Table of Content


References / Credits


DiPietro, Michele. “The Day After: Faculty Behavior in Post 9/11 Classes.” (2003) 2 Feb. 2007.

Huston, Therese A., and Michele DiPietro. “In the Eye of the Storm: Students’ Perception of Helpful Faculty Actions Following a Collective Tragedy.” To Improve the Academy 21 (2007): 206-224.

Kardia, Diana, Crisca Bierwert, Constance E. Cook, A.T. Miller and Matthew Kaplan. “Discussing the Unfathomable: Classroom-Based Responses to Tragedy.” Change 34.1 (2002): 19-22.

Miller, Katherine. “The Experience of Emotion on the Workplace.” Management Communication Quarterly 15.4 (2002): 571-600.

Pavela, Gary. “Memorandum to the Faculty: Teaching Troubled Students After Virginia Tech.” Spectrum Nov. (2007): 4-9.

Siegel, Dorothy. Campuses Respond to Violent Tragedy. Phoenix, AZ: Oryz Press, 1994.


Special thanks to Dr & Mrs. Jeffery Wisch.
Gift designated for funding a 3 tiered program aimed at promoting the success and supporting the needs of students with mental illness.

Some information in this guide was adapted (with permission) from similar information used at Northwestern Business College, Ball State University, University of Virginia, Carthage College, University of St. Thomas..