MCLA Counseling Services is committed to providing quality services to enrolled students. As college mental health professionals, we recognize that for many students, personal, developmental, or psychological challenges may arise during their time at MCLA, and may jeopardize their ability to fully benefit from their educational experience. Our staff aims to help and support students as they struggle with these challenges.
We know that for most students, parents continue to play an important role in their lives. While the college years typically present significant changes in the relationship between parent and child, research (as well as our own experience) suggests that those students who maintain positive and trusting relationships with their parents experience fewer struggles in the areas of college adjustment and self-esteem, and tend to make better behavioral choices while at school.
We believe that the college years ideally encourage increased independence and autonomy for students, however we also recognize and respect the ongoing role you will play in the upbringing and welfare of your child. To this end, we offer the following information in the spirit of hoping that you will assist us in our efforts to be of service to your son or daughter.
Recognizing the signs of a potential problem
As a parent, you may have access to "information" that may be relevant to your son or daughter's psychological well-being. The following verbal and behavioral signs may be suggestive of a potential problem:
Aggressive or threatening behavior
Social withdrawal, or other marked change in social habits
Marked changes in personal hygiene
Preoccupation with weight, food, or exercise
Dramatic weight loss or gain
Excessive crying or mood changes
Marked changes in energy level (e.g., listlessness or hyperactivity)
Noticeable changes potentially associated with drinking or drug use
Increases in pessimism, hopelessness, or helplessness
Change in academic habits (e.g., a historically hard-working student who seems not to care about academic performance anymore)
Bizarre behaviors (e.g., paranoia, strange speech patterns)
References to suicide or death
Any other behaviors or symptoms which represent a distinct departure from the behavior you've always seen from your child
Some general guidelines for how to respond to your concerns
Don't "put off until tomorrow." Bring up issues and concerns with your son or daughter as soon as you begin to notice problems. Ignoring disturbing behavior is unlikely to "make it go away."
Have a caring, concerned, nonjudgmental discussion in private, at a time and place that is conducive to a meaningful conversation.
Listen to your child at least as much as you talk to them.
Avoid the tendency to be critical or judgmental.
Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems, or to "take care of everything" for your son or daughter; rather, problem-solve with them regarding specific actions they may take to confront their issue(s).
Know your own limits. Parents are an incredibly powerful part of a child's life, but sometimes deferring to professional help is appropriate and called for.
Making a referral for Counseling Services
In many cases, your son or daughter may be hesitant regarding seeking professional help. They may need to know that you don't see them as a "failure" or as "weak" for doing so. If, indeed, you have decided to recommend to your child that s/he seek our services (or other professional mental health services), be prepared to give specific information regarding cost (free), location (MountainOne Student Wellness Center, 2nd Floor), and how to make an appointment (by calling 413-662-5531 or stopping by the office). You might suggest that your son or daughter "give counseling a try" by attending one session. Finally, be realistic; sometimes a seed or two needs to be planted before a student "hears" others' concerns and actually follows through with a counseling referral. If, however, there is clear and imminent danger to your child or somebody else, respond more aggressively by contacting your local hospital emergency room, your local police, or MCLA Department of Public Safety at ext. 5100.
You and your son or daughter should understand that as required by state and federal law, as well as professional ethical codes, mental health professionals are obligated to protect the privacy and confidentiality of their clients and their disclosures. There are exceptions to confidentiality (outlined more extensively on the Confidentiality Page of our website), which typically involve imminent danger to self or others, but in general, students expect (and we honor) protection of their confidences. These confidentiality requirements remain in effect even when a parent has made the referral for their child to Counseling Services. Please understand that while we will respect our students' confidences, and comply with the law, we will certainly listen to concerns about a student from interested parties, including, of course, parents.
1. Encourage your student to visit CSSE/Career Services. (You can go too!)
Next time you visit campus, drop into CSSE/Career Services and pick up a business card from one of the staff members. When your student is feeling anxious about the future, offer the card and say, "Please call this person. He (or she) can help you."
Many students use their first semester to "settle into" college life so perhaps the spring semester of the freshman year is the optimal time to start using CSSE/Career Services. It's a good time for you to prompt that first visit.
Ask your student, "Have you visited Career Services?" If you hear, "You only go there when you are a senior," then it's time to reassure them that Career Services is not just for seniors, and meeting with a career counselor can take place at any point (and should take place frequently) in their college career. The sooner a student becomes familiar with the staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared he or she will be to make wise career decisions.
CSSE/Career Services offers a full range of career development and job-search help including:
- mock interviews
- a network of alumni willing to talk about their jobs and careers - a library of books on a wide range of careers - workshops on writing resumes and cover letters - a recruiting program - individual advising
2. Advise your student to write a resume
Writing a resume can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify weak areas that require improvement. Suggest that your student get sample resumes from CSSE/Career Services, from books at the library or online.
You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by a Career Services professional.
3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally literate."
Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?"
If your student seems unsure, talk about their personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:
- Taking a "self-assessment inventory," such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator at CSSE/Career Services
- Talking to favorite faculty members - Researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event. Encourage your student to think about their future long before their senior year.
4. Allow your student to make the decision.
Myth: Picking your major means picking the career you will have forever.
Truth: That's not true anymore. "Major" does not necessarily mean "career," and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about specific fields of study and career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so don't freak out when they come up with an outrageous career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. It's okay to change majors-and careers.
It's okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let your student be the ultimate judge of what's best.
Career development can be stressful. Maybe this is the first really big decision that your student has had to make. Be patient, sympathetic, and understanding even if you don't agree with your child's decisions.
5. Emphasize the importance of internships
CSSE/Career Services will not "place" your student in a job at graduation. Colleges grant degrees but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your student can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer work.
Why an internship?
- Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and administrative skills that are developed through internships.
- Employers look for experience on a student's resume and often hire from within their own internship programs. - Having a high GPA is not enough. - A strong letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor can often tip the scale of an important interview in their favor.
6. Encourage extracurricular involvement.
Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills, qualities valued by future employers, are often developed in extracurricular activities.
7. Persuade your student to stay up-to-date with current events.
Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them. Buy your student a subscription to
The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. When he or she is home on break, discuss major world and business issues.
8. Expose your student to the world of work.
Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Take your student to your workplace. Explain to your student what you do for a living. Show him or her how to network by interacting with your own colleagues. Help your student identify potential employers.
9. Teach the value of networking.
Introduce your student to people who have the careers/jobs that are of interest. Suggest your student contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage your student to "shadow" someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting career fields.
10. Help CSSE/Career Services.
Call CSSE/Career Services when you have a summer, part-time or full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard-working student to fill the vacancy. If your company hires interns, have the internships listed in CSSE/Career Services. Offer your own services to advise students of their career options, participate in a career panel or career related workshop.
Information adapted from article by Thomas J. Denham at jobweb.com