By the time they get to my office they are frustrated, angry or in tears.
I am the Vice-President at a Christian community college. Not counting the students who simply pop into my office for a chat or some academic advice, students often come to my office when they are having a personal crisis of some kind. It might be related to their involvement in the college or something in their lives outside of college.
When students come with these issues, I follow three basic principles in seeking to help them.
- Communicate Care
In general, I do this by validating what they are feeling. If they are angry, I let them vent. If they are overwhelmed, I let them cry. I never say, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
Whether their feelings are justified or not doesn’t matter to me because what they are feeling is real to them. So I allow those feelings to play out to communicate to students that I care about where they are and what they are feeling.
- Provide Perspective
One thing that contributes to the feelings these students have is that they don’t know where to go or what to do next. Often times their confusion leads to a kind of paralysis—they cannot make a decision. Their emotional investment so clouds the issue that they can’t see a way ahead.
So I provide perspective. I help them to think through the issue and to see it for what it is. I want them to recognize that this is not the end of their world. I begin to lay out with them the first steps of a plan to enable them to begin to deal with the issue in a constructive way.
- Instill Hope
The feelings and confusion of the students often lead them to feel that their situation is hopeless. As long as this sense of hopelessness is present the student will not move forward. So in addition to laying out with them the first steps of a plan, I also need to paint a picture of a positive future which lies ahead.
The expectation which accompanies a hopeful attitude can enable students to get back on track and begin to see a practical and beneficial resolution to their issue or situation.
Of course, many issues are much more serious and call for intensive counseling which goes well beyond these basic principles. However, they do provide a starting point and a framework for thinking about how to help hurting people.
What basic principles would you add?