When Professional Counseling Can Be Beneficial

The following indicators might be useful in making a decision about referring a student to the C&PS:

  1. Stated Need for Help
    The desire for help in dealing with a problem may be stated directly or indirectly. Having someone listen attentively to one's concerns is often a cathartic experience for the speaker which, in and of itself, can result in that individual feeling somewhat better.
  2. References to Suicide
    If an individual talks about or alludes to details of how, when, or where they may be contemplating suicide, then immediate referral is necessary. Regardless of the circumstances or context, any reference to committing suicide should be considered serious. To conclude that a student's suicidal talk is simply a bid for attention is extremely risky, and a judgment about the seriousness and possible lethality of the suicidal thought or gesture should not be made without consultation with a professional mental health worker. In the case of an actual suicide attempt, immediately call the University police.
  3. Changes in Mood or Behavior
    Actions which are inconsistent with an individual's normal behavior may indicate that they are experiencing psychological distress. An individual who withdraws from usual social interaction, demonstrates an unwillingness to communicate, has spells of unexplained crying or outbursts of anger, or demonstrates unusual irritability may be suffering from symptoms associated with a psychological problem.
  4. Anxiety and Depression
    Anxiety and depression are two of the more common symptoms which can present significant problems for students. Both of these rather common emotional states can impair an individual's normal functioning when they become prolonged or severe. When an individual's ability to function in a usual manner becomes impaired because of anxiety or depression, some kind of assistance should be recommended.
  5. Psychosomatic Symptoms
    Individuals who experience tension-induced headaches, nausea, or other physical pains which have no apparent organic cause may be experiencing psychosomatic symptoms. Such psychosomatic symptoms are physically real, including the pain. Other physical symptoms of possible problems may include a loss of appetite or excessive eating, insomnia or excessive sleeping, gastrointestinal distress or gynecological problems.
  6. Traumatic Changes in Personal Relationships
    Personal problems often result when an individual experiences a traumatic change in a personal relationship. The death of a family member or close friend, difficulties in marriage or family relationships, divorce, changes in family responsibilities, and difficulties in other significant relationships can all result in increased stress and psychological difficulties.
  7. Drug and Alcohol Abuse
    Indications of excessive drinking, drug abuse, or drug dependence are almost always indicative of psychological problems. In the case of a drug overdose or severe drug reaction, call the University Police
  8. Cutting/Self Injury
    In recent years there has been a substantial increase in the number of students who cut/burn or injure themselves in some other way to manage intense feelings.   These students are usually not trying to commit suicide but rather find self-injury relieves difficult feelings, helps to communicate their pain, or helps them to feel in control of earlier traumatic experiences that may be unconscious.
  9. Learning Problems
    Many students find the demands of college-level academic work to be greater than they anticipated. While it is expected that all students will go through some adjustment period in this regard, some students may experience prolonged difficulties and may be in need of assistance. Poor study habits, incapacitating test anxiety, or repeated absences from class are all issues which might benefit from counseling services.
  10. Retention Issues
    Research conducted at the University has shown that counseling services are effective in combating student attrition. Students who are considering dropping out of school, contemplating a transfer to another institution of higher education, or worrying about possible academic failure may find counseling to be a useful resource during their decision-making.

Emergencies that Occur During the Weekday or After Normal Office Hours

Counseling & Psychological Services is open:
Monday through Friday 
8 am - 4:30 pm.

Students who require immediate psychological help are seen on an emergency basis by calling C&PS at
619-594-5220, during business hours.

After hours, students can call the San Diego Access and Crisis 24-hour Hotline

Other emergency services include:

  • Student Health Services Nurse Advisory Line
  • University Police, 


Counseling Services for Faculty and Staff

While Counseling & Psychological Services does not provide ongoing counseling services for University employees, staff psychologists will talk with such individuals to assist in making an appropriate referral to another source of help. The University provides an Employee Assistance Program for all employees and their family members.  Employees can call (800) 888-2998.

Referrals to Other Sources of Assistance

Sources of assistance for students are not limited to professional counseling, but may include referral to a physician, the Office of Health Promotion within Health Services, the Office of Residential Life, Academic Advising, Career Services, the parents, a hall director, or a member of the clergy, etc. For this reason, knowledge of persons, offices, and agencies that can be of service to the student is of primary importance. Students become discouraged and frustrated when they feel passed along from office to office without receiving the assistance needed. If you are unsure of the appropriate place to send a student for specific information or help, please feel free to call C&PS (619) 594-5220 for information or consultation as to the various sources of help on campus.

When To Refer

Aside from the signs or symptoms that may suggest the need for counseling, there are other guidelines which may help the faculty or staff member define the limits of their involvement with a particular student's problem. A referral is usually indicated in the following situations:

  • A student presents a problem or requests information which is outside your range of knowledge
  • You feel that personality differences that cannot be resolved between you and the student will interfere with your helping the student.
  • The problem is personal, and you know the student on other than a professional basis (friend, neighbor, relative, etc.).
  • A student is reluctant to discuss a problem with you for some reason.
  • You do not believe your contact with the student has been effective.


It is important for members of the University community to understand that the sessions conducted by psychologists are confidential in nature.   Information about those sessions or the content of such appointments cannot be released except upon the student's written request, in circumstances which would result in clear danger to the individual or others, reports of child or elder neglect/abuse, or as may be required by other laws.   Counseling & Psychological Services adheres very strictly to this policy.  

If a faculty or staff member is interested in a student's contact with the C&PS, information can best be obtained directly from the student.   It should be noted that students are not bound by the same promises of confidentiality that professional psychologists are obliged to keep.

When a faculty member consults with us, we may recommend that they share their concerns about a student with the chair of the department, someone who can communicate about a student more broadly with others.