»Helping a Friend Through a Crisis

If each person here at Chapman is alert to the needs of others we raise the level of awareness in our institution and strengthen our community. Offering your concern and interest to a troubled student shows your support and helps them to take action. Some students can talk with friends while others may need professional assistance and might benefit from our counseling services. Still others may decline or resist any help at all. Faculty, staff, and students are not expected to provide counseling but raising our awareness on campus will promote a healthier, more conscientious environment.

Enhancing Communication With Others

People sometimes lack self-confidence in approaching a professor, or may feel inadequate in expressing their concerns. Your attempts to begin a discussion will often mean the difference between a person getting help or not getting needed help and dropping out of Chapman. Some suggestions are:

  • Be aware that the physical setting can enhance or interfere with good communication. Actively moving away from distractions and finding a private space can convey to the student your interest in him/her.
  • Short beginning phrases leads the student into conversation, e.g. "I'm interested in hearing more about that."
  • Ask open-ended questions that require the student to respond with more than a "yes" or "no". "What has been going on?" "How do you usually handle this kind of problem?" "Why does this seem so difficult?"
  • Paraphrasing what the student tells you, rephrasing the content into your own words, conveys to the student that you are listening to really understand. Use lead ins, such as "Let me understand...." or "So basically what happened was..."
  • Clarify to help get a true picture of what the student is saying. Ask questions that begin with "Are you saying that..." or "Do you mean that...". Have the student clarify the adjectives used, e.g. "What do you mean when you say you're 'anxious' - what actually happens?"
  • Giving a feeling description, rephrasing the affective part of the message, is the most potent way you can convey understanding or at least acknowledging the student's feelings. "You must have felt like the wind was knocked out of you". "You probably felt like running from the room."
  • Offer honest feedback by sharing your reactions and feelings non-judgmentally to help the student clarify the situation. Feedback is best given after you fully understand the student's communication, after paraphrasing and clarifying. It is helpful to start your feedback with a supportive comment. "It must have been very difficult to tolerate your roommate's behavior, and it sounds like you did the best you knew how. I am still quite concerned about your not having taken this exam."
  • Use "whole messages" when communicating to the student. After listening and understanding through the steps outlined above, state the situation as you see it, share what you think and what you feel about it, and then share what you want for the student, and what needs to happen.
    "I see that it was a tough week-end, and you are being exposed to new and difficult decisions to make. I think that you are capable of making a different decision should that problem arise again. I feel concerned that you didn't know how to get out of that situation, especially since it has caused your class work to suffer. I want you to be more comfortable saying "no" when you are confronted with such a dilemma, and be able to stay focused on the task of assignments. The way I see it, what needs to happen is for you to learn better ways of asserting yourself, perhaps some help in managing your time, and for you to come to class prepared."

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