Counseling Center

Making a Referral

The college years mark an important period of personal and psychological growth that may be stressful at various times. On occasion, students may experience difficulty coping with this stress. As a faculty member, administrator, or friend, you may be one of the first to become aware of personal difficulties affecting a student's life at Hamilton College. The following is an outline designed to assist in connecting students to available services at the Counseling Center.

When to Refer

Consider referring a student to the Counseling Center if you notice:

  • You're doing more "personal counseling" than "academic advising" with a student.
  • A student seems to be "perpetually" tired, anxious, depressed, irritable, angry, or sad.
  • Marked changes in a student's appearance or habits (for example, deterioration in grooming, hygiene, dramatic weight change, marked withdrawal in a normally outgoing person, accelerated activity or speech in a normally reserved person, or marked change in academic performance).
  • Indications of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • A student's use of alcohol or other substances interferes with his/her relationships or work.
  • A student's thoughts or actions appear unusual to others.

How to Refer

If you notice any of these warning signs, here's how to make a referral. Inform the student in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner of your concern. Be specific regarding the behavior patterns you have observed. At this point, suggest that he/she consider personal counseling and refer the student to the Counseling Center. Although we appreciate your concern for the student you are referring, we expect the student to call and make his/her own appointment.

If the student agrees to the referral, you may:

  • Facilitate the referral by having the student call us from your office or room to arrange an appointment.
  • Agree that the student will contact the Counseling Center on their own to arrange an appointment.
  • In urgent or crisis situations, walk the student over for immediate contact with our staff.

Except in emergencies, the option should be left open for the student to accept or refuse a referral for counseling.


If you are unsure about whether to refer, call us. Our staff members will consult with you about your concerns, and possible options for responding.


An emergency can occur anytime. In some instances of severe emotional disturbance, immediate response is necessary for the well-being of the student or others. The Counseling Center provides 24-hour emergency crisis assessment and intervention throughout the academic year.

What is an Emergency?

  • A suicidal gesture, stated intention, or attempt.
  • Behavior posing a threat to the individual.
  • Behavior or stated intentions posing a threat to others.
  • Demonstrated inability to care for oneself.

Any reference to a personal consideration of suicide, threat of suicide, or attempt at suicide should be judged as extremely serious, and referral to the Counseling Center is strongly advised. If the reference includes the how, when, where, or other specifics of suicide plans, immediate response is critical.

Who to Call in an Emergency:

The primary campus resources for responding to mental health emergencies are the Counseling Center (x4340) and Campus Safety (x4000). A student who comes to the Counseling Center in crisis will be seen by a professional staff member as soon as possible. After hours and on weekends calls are dispatched through Campus Safety (x4000) to the on-call counselor for assessment and intervention. Be prepared to provide as much information as possible, including:

  • Name of the student, yourself, and your location.
  • Description of the situation and the assistance needed.
  • Exact location of the person.
  • For the person who is dangerous, provide an accurate description.
  • If the person leaves the area, refusing to wait for assistance, note which direction they take.


As required by both laws and ethics of professional practice, all communication between a therapist and client is confidential. Once a student is a client at the Counseling Center, we cannot discuss the particulars of his/her situation, or even acknowledge the fact that counseling is being provided without the consent of the client. If it seems necessary we will generally attempt to obtain client permission to communicate with a faculty member, friend, or family member. If you do not hear from us, it is likely that permission has not been granted. Students are also encouraged to communicate with you in a manner that is comfortable for them. Even though we are bound legally and ethically by the rules of confidentiality we can always listen to your observations and concerns. In any event do not hesitate to contact the Counseling Center for a consultation.