I often have undergraduate students in my office who are clearly under considerable stress. These students are usually first years who are making the transition from high school. This goes beyond the "school is lots of work" stress into the "I'm about to break down" level. The university does have a counselling service that I almost always refer the students to, but they are often booked up and it takes a while to get an appointment.

I am not interested in becoming a therapist, but I would like to know some techniques for helping students through this sort of problem when they are in my office. Things like how to get a student to calm down and how to get them to start working to solve their problems.

What types of training should I seek out to help me with this? I'm not even sure what the right field of study is, so I'd be starting from scratch...

  • These are undergraduates, specifically first years making the transition from high school. I agree there is something that isn't right - it's an extremely high stress environment. The university is taking great steps to handle it, but the initiatives are slow to take effect Nov 16, 2017 at 14:40
  • Surely a large part of the solution is that the University needs to expand the counselling services as if it takes a "while" to get an appointment that may not be appropriate in some cases...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 16, 2017 at 15:28
  • I certainly agree that there are systemic issues. The university really is taking great strides in this regard, but big changes take time. I'm really more interested in how I deal with the immediate problem of helping a student through a short bout of extreme stress Nov 16, 2017 at 15:41
  • 1
    If they're close to breakdown, maybe some of the "crisis intervention" techniques would help - e.g. this list. It seems to boil down to 1) identify what the problem is 2) ask what they're doing about it 3) give them feedback to improve that plan until they have a good plan A 4) also discuss plan B and C so they don't have to be afraid their life will be ruined if plan A doesn't go smoothly.
    – nengel
    Nov 16, 2017 at 17:48
  • I think this is an interesting question, but my instincts tell me that the best answer is along the lines of "just send troubled students to any available counseling services provided at your institution."
    – Mad Jack
    Nov 16, 2017 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


It is admirable that you are trying to address this on your own, but I would recommend not trying to solve it yourself by trying to find resources. There are complex ethical and legal (like FERPA in the US) issue.

There are likely other faculty, staff, other students who find themselves in the same situation -- wanting to know what to do but not knowing where to go to learn. Graduate students also often find themselves in this position when teaching undergraduates

So why not try to address that issue for all of these groups? You say that your university has a counseling service. So why not ask that service if they would put on a one-day or half-day training course for any university member who desires to learn how to respond appropriately to students in need. My university does this, and it has been extremely successful. They even have separate sessions depending on the context in which you interact with students.

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