A Message for Parents

The Counseling Services Office at Fitchburg State University is committed to providing quality services to enrolled students at the University. As university mental health professionals, we recognize that for many students, personal, developmental, or psychological challenges may arise during their time at Fitchburg State, and may jeopardize their ability to fully profit from their educational experience. Our staff aims to help and support students as they struggle with these challenges.

We know that for most students, parents continue to play a critically important role in their lives. The university years typically present significant changes in the relationship between parent and child. Research (as well as our own experience) suggests that those students who maintain positive and trusting relationships with their parents experience fewer struggles with university adjustment and self-esteem, and tend to make better behavioral choices while at school.

We believe that the university years ideally encourage increased independence and autonomy for students. However, we also recognize and respect the ongoing role you will play in the upbringing and welfare of your child. To this end, we offer the following information in the spirit of hoping that you will assist us in our efforts to be of service to your son or daughter.

Recognizing the Signs of a Potential Problem

As a parent, you may have access to information that may be relevant to your son or daughter's psychological well-being. The following verbal and behavioral signs may be suggestive of a potential problem:

  • 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
  • Any other behaviors or symptoms which represent a distinct departure from the behavior you've always seen from your child

General Guidelines for How to Respond to Your Concerns

  • Don't put off until tomorrow. Bring up issues and concerns with your son or daughter as soon as you begin to notice problems. 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 your child at least as much as you talk to them.
  • Avoid the tendency to be critical or judgmental.
  • Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems, or to take care of everything for your son or daughter. Problem-solve with them regarding specific actions they may take to confront their issue(s).
  • Know your own limits. Parents are an incredibly powerful part of a child's life but sometimes deferring to professional help is appropriate and called for.

Making a Referral for Counseling Services

In many cases, your son or daughter 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 recommend to your child that they seek our services (or 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 emailing counselingscheduler@fitchburgstate.educalling 978.665.3152, or stopping by the office).

You might try suggesting that your son or daughter 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 your child or somebody else, respond more aggressively by contacting your local hospital emergency room, or your local police.

Understanding Confidentiality

You and your son or daughter 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 which are outlined more extensively under Confidentiality on our main page. These exceptions typically involve imminent danger to self or others.

In general, students expect (and we honor) protection of their confidences. These confidentiality requirements remain in effect even when a parent has made the referral for their child 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, including, of course, parents.