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University Counseling Center

The Violent Student

Violence due to emotional distress is rare and typically occurs when the student’s level of frustration has been so intense or of such an enduring nature as to erode all of the student’s emotional controls. The adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” best applies here. Violent behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

What You Can Do:

  • Prevent total frustration and helplessness by quickly and calmly acknowledging the intensity of the situation, e.g., “I can see you’re really upset and may be tempted to lash out.”
  • Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable without denying his/her feelings, e.g., “You certainly have the right to be angry, but breaking things is not OK.”
  • Get necessary help (send someone for other staff, security, etc.)
  • Stay safe: have easy access to a door; keep furniture between you and the student; keep door open if at all possible/appropriate; make certain that a staff, faculty, or another person is nearby and accessible; in some instances, you may wish to see the student only with another person present — do not see the person alone if you fear for your safety.


  • Ignore warning signs that the person is about to explode, e.g., yelling, screaming, clenched fists, threats.
  • Threaten or corner the student.
  • Touch the student.

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