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For Faculty and Staff

Regarding Programming

Part of the mission of the Counseling Services Office is to provide psychoeducational programming to the Fitchburg State University community. We are often invited by faculty, staff, and students to do classroom presentations, trainings, and educational programs. Past programs and educational activities have included:

  • Stress and Time Management
  • Assertiveness Training
  • Eating Disorders
  • Easing the Transition to University Life
  • Facts about Depression
  • Helping Skills for Campus Living Staff
  • Healthy Relationships
  • University Students and Mental Health
  • National Alcohol Screening Day
  • National Depression Screening Day
  • Sexual Assault Awareness

If you are interested in having Counseling Services staff provide a program for your class, staff, club, or group, or if you wish to discuss ideas for potential future programs, please contact the Counseling Services Office. Please call (978) 665-3152 or email the Director of Counseling Services at rhynes@fitchburgstate.edu.

Concerned About a Student?

Faculty and staff members are in a position to play a significant role with students who may be struggling with personal or psychological issues. Because of their ongoing and often frequent contact with students at Fitchburg State, faculty and staff are often able to observe signs and symptoms of a potential problem well before a student might present to our office for services.

It is by no means expected that faculty and staff will provide counseling for students. However, all employees at Fitchburg State should realize that because of the trusting relationship that they may develop with students here, they may be approached for support and/or advice of a personal nature. It may be helpful for faculty and staff to be able to do the following:

  • Spot the signs of a student who may be having emotional or psychological difficulties
  • Respond effectively to such students
  • Facilitate an effective referral to the Counseling Services Office

Recognizing the Signs of a Potential Problem

The following verbal and behavioral signs may be suggestive of a potential problem:

  • Excessive absences
  • Repeated requests for special consideration academically
  • 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
  • Change in academic habits (e.g., a historically hard-working student who seems not to care about academic performance anymore)
  • Bizarre behaviors (e.g., paranoia, strange speech patterns)
  • References to suicide or death

General Guidelines for How to Respond to Your Concerns About a Student

  • Don't put off until tomorrow. Bring up issues and concerns as soon as they become apparent. 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 the student as much as you talk to them.
  • Avoid the tendency to be critical or judgmental.
  • Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems; rather, problem-solve with them regarding specific actions they may take to confront their issue(s).
  • Know your own limits. While it may be a tempting proposition to rescue a student in distress, often deferring to professional help is appropriate and called for.

Making a Referral to Counseling Services

In many cases, students may be hesitant regarding seeking professional help. They may need to know that you don't see them as a failure or as weak for doing so. If you have decided to refer a student to our office or to other professional mental health services, be prepared to give specific information regarding the following:

  • Cost (in the case of Fitchburg State Counseling Services, for enrolled students, there is no cost)
  • Location (Hammond Building, Third Floor)
  • How to make an appointment (by calling 978-665-3152 or stopping by the office)

You might try suggesting that the student give counseling a try by attending one session. Finally, be humble and realistic. Sometimes a seed or two need be planted before a student hears others' concerns and actually follows through with a counseling referral. If, however, there is clear and imminent danger to the student or to somebody else, respond more aggressively by contacting your local hospital emergency room or your local police.

Understanding Confidentiality

You should understand that as required by state and federal law, as well as professional ethical codes, mental health professionals are obligated to protect the privacy and confidentiality of their clients and their disclosures. There are exceptions to confidentiality outlined more extensively on the Confidentiality Page of our website. These exceptions typically involve imminent danger to self or others.

In general, however, students expect (and we honor) protection of their confidences. These confidentiality requirements remain in effect even when a faculty or staff member has made the referral for a student to counseling services. Please understand that while we will respect our students' confidences and comply with the law, we will certainly listen to concerns about a student from interested parties.

For Your Own Personal Concerns

The Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is a pre-paid benefit that provides short-term counseling and referral services to Fitchburg State University faculty and staff and their household members. This free service is provided by AllOne Health. The EAP is staffed by licensed counselors who will respond quickly to your requests for help in a caring, respectful and confidential manner.

For more information, please visit the Employee Assistance Program page.

Counseling Services staff will be available for consultation to employees at Fitchburg State, generally regarding concerns they may have about students. In addition, we encourage employees to take advantage of the EAP, an important benefit geared specifically to staff and their concerns.

Services provided through the EAP are free to employees. Should a referral be necessary or appropriate to further address your concerns, your health insurance may cover part of these costs.