Guide for Parents

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 student.  

Recognizing the signs of a potential problem
As a parent, you may have access to "information" that may be relevant to your student'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 student 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 student 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 student; 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 student's life, but sometimes deferring to professional help is appropriate and called for.

Making a referral for Counseling Services
In many cases, your student 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 student that they 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 413-662-5331). You might suggest that your student "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 student 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.

Understanding confidentiality

You and your student 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 student 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.