For Faculty and Staff

Click on the links below to access Faculty and Staff Resources:

Online Interactive Training. Create an account and use password: sonoma73

Learn to recognize signs of psychological distress and connect students to appropriate support services. As a course administrator, you can play an important role in broadening awareness about At-Risk on your campus and motivating faculty and staff to participate.

Helping Students In Distress Guide - A Faculty And Staff Guide For Assisting Students In Distress

Letter Requests

• Free Training: QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer

CAPS offers free trainings to faculty and staff in QPR, a suicide prevention program that educates attendees in how to assess a student in distress and intervene in a suicidal crisis. Complementary meals are provided for those attending QPR trainings. Please contact Becky Fein at feinr@sonoma.edu for more information regarding upcoming trainings or scheduling a training for your department.

• General Guidelines for Assisting Students in Need:

What to do:

1. RESPECT the student's value system and culture. The University's Diversity Vision Statement was created to promote awareness and understanding among diverse groups of people, cultures and organizations and of their beliefs and ideas: Expect Respect. Give it. Get it.

2. If possible, GATHER INFORMATION before you intervene. Knowing where to refer a depressed or anxious student ahead of time might save time and increase the student's confidence in you.

3. ENSURE PRIVACY when you talk and choose a time when you are not preoccupied or rushed. If you are concerned about your safety or about anyone's behavior being misinterpreted, ask you supervisor or a trusted colleague to join you and explain why to the student.

4. EXPRESS CONCERN in specific, nonjudgmental, behavioral terms ("I noticed you haven't been to class in three weeks" not "Where have you been lately?)

5. BE HONEST and direct; say what you mean and mean what you say.

6. LISTEN to the student in a sensitive, non-threatening way.

7. CLARIFY your understanding by asking questions.

8. DEMONSTRATE your understanding by repeating back the essence of what the student has said. Try to include both the CONTENT ("So you are new to this campus…") and the FEELINGS ("…and you are feeling overwhelmed.")

9. COMMUNICATE HOPE by reminding the student that there are always options, and things tend to look different with time.

10. RECOMMEND RESOURCES appropriate to the problem. Refer to the CAPS "Helping Students in Distress Guide - A Faculty and Staff Guide for Assisting Students in Distress" which is located under the “For Faculty and Staff” section on the CAPS website. Remind the student that using resources is a sign of strength and courage, not weakness or failure.

11. MAINTAIN PROFESSIONALISM and be clear about what you can and cannot do.

12. FOLLOW UP in a reasonable length of time.

13. RECOGNIZE that the student may not immediately welcome or act upon your interventions, but you may plant a seed that blossoms later and it is never wrong to communicate kindness and concern.

14. CONSULT with other professionals about your concerns by contacting any of the offices listed below:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services: 707-664-2153
  • Disability Services for Students: 707-664-2677
  • Office of Diversity and Compliance: 707-664-4470
  • Office of Judicial Affairs: 707-664-2838
  • Office of Student Affairs: 707-664-2838
  • Police Services: 707-664-4444
  • Student Health Center: 707-664-2921

15. REMIND students that getting help with emotional problems often significantly improves their academic performance.

16. ASSURE students that they are not alone.

A Few Things to Avoid:

1. DON'T judge, evaluate or criticize, even if asked; usually this shuts down communication.

2. DON'T be a hero or savior; recognize the limits of your role and refer to other professionals.

3. DON'T give special consideration to a student unless you would do it for any student in a similar situation.

4. DON'T make promises you cannot or will not keep.

5. DON'T promise absolute confidentiality in all circumstances; if the student or others are in danger, you will need to act.

6. DON'T be afraid to intervene for fear you will say the wrong thing; saying nothing to a suffering person is almost always worse.

(Content adapted and modified from the University of Michigan)

Letter Requests

Sometimes faculty or staff attempt to refer students who have been experiencing academic difficulties to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) requesting a letter "verifying" personal problems that may have interfered with their academic performance.

At times serious personal problems do interfere with one's ability to concentrate on studies. Although counselors want to be supportive when they can, it is important for faculty, staff and students to understand that counselors cannot confirm difficulties of which they have very little knowledge.

If students have no counseling record with CAPS other than an initial screening, a crisis intervention session, or a drop-in session, a letter may only confirm that the student came to CAPS and disclosed difficulties that may or may not have affected academic performance earlier in the semester. This type of letter is usually not very helpful and should not serve as verification that CAPS supports excused absences and/or withdrawal from the course.

On the other hand, if a student has been seen for ongoing counseling while experiencing psychological difficulties, counselors may be able to write a supportive letter. Note, however, that CAPS will only write a letter supporting the withdrawal from only one course under extremely rare circumstances. We assume that if the psychological condition was significant to cause the type of distress that would warrant late withdrawal from one course, then the student will likely need to withdraw from the semester. The letter, therefore, would support a retroactive withdrawal from the entire semester.

If you believe a student is experiencing personal difficulties that may be negatively impacting his/her academic performance and that he/she might benefit from counseling, it is generally most helpful to suggest that the student seek counseling early on, in order to help prevent such difficulties impacting them later on in the semester.

Students who have not had ongoing counseling sessions at CAPS are encouraged to seek letters of support from individuals directly involved with their case such as past or present psychological/psychiatric providers, medical doctors, or other appropriate professionals.

If a student has a documented disability for which he or she is requesting or receiving accommodations, please refer him or her to Disability Services for Students (DSS) for assistance (707- 664-2677). Again, the earlier these services are set up, the more likely these problems can be prevented in the future!

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding in these matters.
If you have specific questions, contact CAPS at 707-664-2153.

(Adapted and modified from the web pages of Texas A & M University Student Counseling Services)