Faculty/Staff Guide

Faculty/Staff Guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide faculty, staff, and administrators at Holy Family University with information about issues affecting our students, and how Counseling Services can be of assistance in these matters. Faculty and staff consultation requests for assistance from the Counseling Center have increased as the issues facing our students have grown in complexity. Through the following pages, we hope to increase your understanding of how you can help your students and the resources available for them at Holy Family University. 

Faculty/Staff Member: Your Role

One of the most common questions a faculty or staff member will ask the staff of the Counseling Center is: How can I help? Faculty and staff are often the first people a student will contact for assistance. The faculty and staff at Holy Family University are caring, compassionate individuals, motivated by the University mission "to foster a collegiate community that affirms the dignity of the human person and witnesses to a living Christian faith." In this spirit, many faculty and staff reach out to students to provide assistance when it is requested. Anyone who is perceived as trustworthy, knowledgeable, and caring may become a potential resource to a student during difficult times. Your interest and concern may be an important component in helping a student to resolve the difficulties that are affecting their academic and personal progress. Many times, students find that they benefit just from sharing their concerns with a faculty or staff member with the awareness that this person cares enough to listen to them.

When Might a Student Benefit from a Referral to a Mental Health Professional including the Counseling Center?

At different points in our lives, we all feel anger, sadness and emotional pain - this is a normal part of living, and life is not always pure happiness. It is important to recognize that one of these signs in isolation may not necessitate contact with a mental health professional. Sometimes just venting and talking about it with a trusted support person who listens or helps you problem solve when needed, is just enough help at the time. However, sometimes a student is experiencing more than the "normal" ups and downs of life and could benefit from additional help. When through your relationship with a student, you observe or are informed that they are experiencing behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that are interfering with their ability to perform life functions, have healthy relationships, or achieve their goals, you may want to begin a deeper discussion with the student about what supports are needed. One of these supports could include seeking an assessment from a mental health professional who can make recommendations for treatment. You are in an excellent position to facilitate access to additional supports on campus such as the Counseling Center. You are not expected to provide psychological counseling, make evaluations, or formulate a diagnosis; that is our work in the Counseling Center. However, you can serve as a bridge to us.

Suicidal Thoughts Chart

What Do I Say to the Student?

  • Request to see the student in private.
  • Create a safe space: This happens through validation, empathy (non-judgement), and active listening.
  • Validate the student’s feelings: what they are feeling is okay and you believe them.
  • Validation is not agreement. It is your acceptance and support for their feelings whether or not you agree with their point of view or behaviors.
  • Listen to what the student is troubled about and try to see the issue from his/her point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. Use reassurance genuinely but be careful not to overuse it.
  • Remember that empathy is different than sympathy. It involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they feel.
  • Empathy can serve as a guide to help us know how to help someone else. Remember a time in your own life when you felt a similar way and what you would have liked to have from someone else .
  • Active listening implies simply that listening is an active process.  In other words, you are doing something when you are listening; and therefore, it involves attending, using silence when needed, paraphrasing, clarifying, summarizing, and reflecting.
  • Care through encouragement, helping actions, and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Express your appreciation to the student for being so open and explain that it takes courage to ask for help and express your struggles
  • Support this step they have taken in agreeing to speak with you and let them know they are doing a good thing for themselves
  • Use genuineness and kindness in expressing your concerns about what you have observed or been told: Acknowledge your observations and express your concerns directly and honestly (but without judgment or labeling)
  • Help them problem solve and explore options, solutions, and consequences related to their situation.     
  • Offer them help that you can give or feel comfortable giving related to your role in their lives/the university. 
  • Explain to them clearly why you are there and what you will be doing next.  Having information tends to make people feel safer. 
  • Involve yourself only as far as you can go in your role. At times, in an attempt to reach or help a troubled student, you may become more involved than time or skill permits. Be careful of this. On the other hand, extending oneself to others often makes them feel safe enough to share vital information and may be what they need to get through this tough time.
  • Help them tolerate the distressing feelings by just being there with them through it as a calming, reassuring presence. 
  • **If in a crisis situation, speak calmly, be clear and direct, show compassion and care, and call the Counselor on call right away and other staff as necessary. 

**If in a crisis situation, speak calmly, be clear and direct, show compassion and care, and call the Counselor on call right away and other staff as necessary.

  • Ask them what skills they have and what they do to deal with tough situations. See if they can call upon those skills/behaviors/self-care strategies
  • Connect student with supportive resources both internal and external to the university
  • Tell them about services offered on campus that can help them
  • Help them utilize or find out more information about that resource
  • When appropriate, inform them or educate them about other external resources that may be helpful to their situation. 
  • Note: Sometimes students have not followed through on their own treatment or say that getting treatment made things worse. This is not uncommon and there are reasons they may feel this way. Validate the students feeling but also gently suggest they perhaps speak to their counselor, try again with another counselor if their first experience was not a good fit.
  • If they are willing, help them make an appointment online with the counseling center right then and there.
  • Let the Counseling Staff know the information and concern you have about the student. The information may provide valuable supporting information to the counselor who meets with the student. 
  • Report the incident up your chain of administrative command so there is a record of your conversation and concern.
  • If any of these symptoms are a violation of the student code of conduct, then procedures for reporting behavioral violations of conduct should also be followed.
  • Follow up with the Student and Continue to be aware of the student’s behaviors and if you become concerned again, repeat these steps as often as needed.
  • If the student is consistently concerning you, and is refusing to get help or is getting help but still exhibiting concerning behaviors, then consult with the Director of the Counseling Center and report your concern to the CARE team.
  • Also, follow up with your supervisor (chain of command) to let them know about your continued concern.

Note: If while speaking to the student, you become more concerned for the student or others safety due to the information being reported to you or your observations then call Public Safety and follow the detailed mental health emergency protocol that is outlined on this page. Remember that 911 and The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is Available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

Ultimately, individuals can refuse counseling except in certain emergencies involving a danger to self or others. When recommending a referral to the Counseling Center, let the student know that you have heard their concerns and think that your recommendation to speak with someone in the Counseling Center is your best judgment based on your own observations of the student’s behavior. Avoid generalizations and be specific about the behaviors that concern you. (For example, “I can see how upset you are by this situation. I am glad that you felt you could talk to me about this, as I am extremely concerned for you when you are saying you are drinking too much every night. I think you might find it helpful also to talk to someone with more experience in this area than I have. The Counseling Center is a resource on campus….”).

If the student is reluctant to accept a referral, offer your acceptance of those feelings. Perhaps offer the option for the student to think about it and get back to you in a day or so, in case they might want to "think it over." 

Can Someone in the Counseling Center Contact the Student?

One thing that can be helpful is contacting the Counseling Center, in advance of any meeting with a student, to get additional guidance related to how to speak to a particular student. All circumstances are slightly different and Counselors can consult with you and help coach you through speaking to the student about your concerns.

Since the student has some relationship to you, and you have direct information that has raised your concern for the student, it is more likely the student will feel comfortable speaking with you directly.

The Counseling Center does not reach out to students who have not contacted us first except when the student is experiencing a mental health emergency in which case the CARE team should be notified and with the help of the CARE team and you, the student will be contacted. The center functions best as a safe space for students to autonomously seek services on a voluntary basis.

Additionally, a Counselor has no authority to require that a student speak to us, keeping in mind that we cannot require anyone to come to us for assessment or counseling (except in a mental health emergency).

What Happens once a student books an appointment with the Counseling Center?

A student who comes to the Counseling Center will meet with one of the Counselors for an initial intake assessment session in which the Counselor and the student will begin to determine what help is needed and how best to assist the student. This may be simply one visit at the Counseling Center, counseling at the Counseling Center, referral to another campus office, or possibly an off campus referral for other types of intervention or more specialized longer-term treatment.

Can you explain Confidentiality?

If you have referred a student for assistance, you are probably still concerned for that student and wondering how they are doing. Behavioral and mental health Counselors are held to higher standards than are other university employees who must abide by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Legal and ethical obligations prevent a Counselor from discussing a student's status with you. Counselors cannot even confirm or deny that a student has sought services! You may follow-up with the student and to ask the student if s/he followed through with your referral and went to the Counseling Center.

FERPA regulations prohibit you from revealing information about the student to anyone outside of the university. This includes parents and other agencies. As tempting as it may be, you should not be discussing the student with individuals or agencies outside of the university unless you have written permission from the student to do so. Communications within the university should also be extremely limited to a "need to know" basis. You should not be revealing information about a student to other faculty, staff, coaches, or administrators unless there is a compelling reason to do so, which is why so many faculty and staff seek consultation from the Counseling Center and/or Health Services. These two areas are completely confidential with which it is appropriate to discuss relevant concerns about a student. In any case, it is good practice to respect the student's privacy. If the student appears hesitant to discuss the issue with you after you have made a referral, this is fine. You may just wish to state that you wanted the student to know that you are concerned for their well-being and hope s/he is doing better.

What if a student is feeling really upset, depressed, or anxious, but it is not an emergency?

There are several things you can do in times of great distress, when it is not a crisis situation or emergency as described above. Some things that you may be able to do immediately to relieve some of your distress include:

  • If appropriate, book a Same Day Emergency Appointment
    • Same day session with a counselor for students experiencing high levels of psychological distress which is interfering with their ability to function, and therefore, assessment by a counselor is indicated. Session focuses on assessing level of distress, offering help tolerating negative emotions in the moment, determining the level of support and treatment needed, and giving assistance in obtaining additional support.
  • Sign up to utilize TAO (therapy assistance online)
  • Journal or write down your thoughts in any creative way you can think of such as poetry, music lyrics, etc.
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or adult role model
  • Practice relaxation techniques, be mindful, or meditate (check out TAO for help with this skill)
  • Listen to soothing music or watch a comforting or funny movie
  • Exercise or do anything active such as take a walk or play a sport
  • Color, draw, craft, paint, etc. Distract yourself with any healthy and soothing activity you can think of

What qualifies as a Mental Health Crisis Emergency?

When it comes to mental health concerns, they are serious and many behaviors/symptoms are concerning. When deciding if behaviors/symptoms rise to the level of being a Mental Health Crisis Emergency, for which immediate assessment and care is needed, you want to consider whether or not there is reason to be concerned for the immediate safety of the student. Immediate concerns for safety are referred to as “Life Threatening Behaviors.”

Detailed Mental Health Emergency Protocol for Faculty and Staff

1. Call Public Safety at 267-341-3333 to assist you with locating a counselor to assess the student right away and to add a level of safety and security during the crisis assessment/intervention.

When possible, gather information which you will share with Public Safety and the Counselor who assesses the student (e.g. student’s name, emergency contact person/info, details of the emergent situation, update on any action already taken, any known past mental health history including past treatment history related to the student that could be relevant).

If the student is off campus and not with you or Public Safety does not feel like the best option, then the local mental health emergency resources should be called to assist the student right away:

  • Call 911
  • Call The Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Contact Mental Health Crisis Services in their area and request a welfare check (Philadelphia Mental Health Delegates-215-685-6440)

2. Stay with the student to provide care.

You will be asked to consult with the counselor about the situation to collect information about your concern for the student and determine next steps. 

3. The student will likely speak with a counselor for an emergency mental health risk assessment. 

During business hours, 8am-4pm, they will be brought to the counseling center office in order to be assessed to determine next steps. Afterhours, they will be asked to speak to a counselor by phone. In some circumstances, the student may need to go to the hospital. 

If the student has ingested something or made any other action towards harming themselves (i.e. cut, burned, banged, any part of their body into something to harm themselves which has left a physical marking) then 911 should be called right away to have the student assessed medically as soon as possible. Then call the Counseling Center (267-341-3222) and Dean of Students/CARE Team (267-341-3204) to let them know what happened so they can follow up with the hospital. 

4. Follow Any Departmental Protocol such as notifying your supervisor, etc. and complete a report so that there is a record of the incident

5. Follow up with the CARE team to report the student as a concern

The CARE team/Dean of Students will also need to be notified of the situation that is unfolding to assist as a University representative, who is not a direct treatment provider, can also advocate on the student’s behalf and track the student following this incident. 

6. Keep the student on your radar and continue to support the student as needed  and connect them to resources.

Are you available for Consultation and Training?

Counseling Center staff are available for consultation services for students, faculty, and staff. Consultations can focus on a concern for an individual student, behavior issues in the classroom, and on specific topics of concern (eating concerns, depression/anxiety, time management, how to address a student who is not completing assignments, etc.). The Counseling Center also runs workshops and groups during the year covering many topics to which you can refer students. You may also request a collaboration with our office by way of a mental health workshop or training. Please complete the Request for Training and Presentation Form.

Other Campus Resources and Available Online Training Opportunities

There are numerous resources that can provide assistance to students. In addition to the Counseling Center, these include a physician, Health Services, Center for Academic Enhancement, Academic Advising, Campus Ministry, Careers Center, Disability Services, Residence Life, and parents. When you refer a student, it is important that you encourage them to contact these resources on their own. Although you may desire to call or arrange an appointment for the student, except in a serious emergency or life-threatening situation, it is important for the student to arrange these appointments for themselves.

Ask, Listen, Refer

Ask Listen Refer is a statewide online suicide prevention training program

Take this Suicide Prevention Training to better equip yourself in responding to student mental health crisis. The Ask, Listen, Refer Suicide Prevention Training Program is designed to help you recognize the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and respond appropriately.This 15-20 minute interactive training program can be found at Ask, Listen, Refer


Tao Therapy Assistance Online

TAO includes over 150 brief, effective, educational sessions covering over 50 common topics and skills related to mental health, wellness, and substance use issues. TAO Includes interactive sessions, mindfulness exercises and practice tools all aimed at helping students achieve their goals. Our TAO page will explain more about how students can create an account. Please feel free to reach out to us for a consultation about how you can utilize this tool to promote health and wellness in your course.


Holy Family University has partnered with ThrivingCampus, to make it easier for you to connect with off-campus mental health care and well-being services. This online directory contains licensed mental health clinicians, many of whom specialize in working with students. You can browse and filter providers based on your needs and preferences.

Find Providers in the Community


Our Kognito page will explain more about how to use this program with students so they can recognize themselves and other students in distress and access help when needed. Please feel free to reach out to us for a consultation about how you can utilize this tool to promote health and wellness in your course.


Mental Health Emergency Services for Surrounding Counties: