How to Deal with a Distressed Student

If you choose to approach a student you are concerned about or if a student asks you for help with personal problems, here are some suggestions that might make the experience more comfortable for you and more helpful for the student.

  • Talk to the student in private when both of you have time and are not rushed and preoccupied.  Give the student your undivided attention.  It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel confident about what to do next.
  • Express your concerns in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms (e.g. “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned”).
  • Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way.  Communicate understanding by repeating back the gist of what the student said.  Let the student talk.
  • Avoid judging, evaluating, or criticizing.  Respect the student’s value system, even if you don’t agree with it.


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