Managing Student Mental Health Needs and Related Concerns at Small Colleges and Universities

Topics: Mental Health and Counseling, Student Health and Wellness, Student Affairs

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Research Questions

  • What mental health services do other institutions offer and with what staff capacity?
  • Under what circumstances do institutions refer students to outside clinicians and how are these clinicians identified?
  • What are the guidelines for communicating with parents about a student’s health?
  • What tuition refund options are available in the case that a student takes medical leave?


When student demand for counseling services exceeds the capacity of counseling centers at small, baccalaureate colleges, counseling centers may refer students to outside clinicians, especially to psychiatrists who are typically not part of a counseling center’s full-time staff.  This brief highlights staffing and budget models across contact institutions, as well as guidelines for referring students to outside clinicians.  Additionally, this report explores the partnership between the counseling center and the deans of students, especially in cases of student misconduct.  Finally, risk management around students of concern, communication with parents, and patient confidentiality are considered.

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