Policies and Procedures Manual

Chapter 3: Student Affairs

03:05:14   Counseling Services and Informed Consent

Purpose

The Northeast State Community College Counseling and Testing Services department provides free, short-term counseling, assessment, crisis intervention, and referral for students. Counseling provides an opportunity for students to discover more about themselves while learning new skills to cope with personal, social, and academic demands. 

Objective

The objective of the College’s Counseling Services office is to help students: 

  • Identify obstacles that hinder them from reaching their goals;
  • Develop coping skills;
  • Discover new attitudes and behaviors;
  • Learn stress management skills;
  • Set boundaries; and
  • Utilize campus and community resources. 

Counseling Services also provides consultative services to the institution within its scope and is an integral part of the College’s Safe Campus initiative.   

General Policies

Counseling services are provided by the Director of Counseling and Testing Services, a master’s level counselor, and graduate students completing an internship in a master’s level counseling or social work program in partnering colleges and universities. Students are encouraged to be an active participant during and between counseling sessions to enhance the change process. Students should expect to be treated with care and respect. 

Students who exhibit symptoms of long-term psychiatric conditions or severe substance abuse or dependence or who require ongoing therapy, medication, and/or psychiatric services will be referred to a local community mental health provider. 

Students who have issues outside of the expertise of the College counselors will also be referred to community mental health providers. Counseling Services may provide support for academic-related issues and crisis intervention even if the students are referred to community mental health providers. 

All active client files are locked in the director’s or intern’s filing cabinet. Progress notes may not be stored on desktops or jump drives and must be printed and locked in the filing cabinet at the end of each day. Interns are to submit all client records over to the director at the end of their internships. 

The Director of Counseling and Testing Services shall serve as the records custodian of inactive counseling records. In the event of an emergency, the Dean of Student Development shall have access to counseling records and will become the records custodian until he/she identifies a new counselor.   

Informed Consent

Confidentiality shall be upheld as part of the counseling relationship; therefore, the Informed Consent for Counseling Services Form is signed and dated by the student during intake. In accordance with the ethical guidelines of the counseling profession and the legal requirements of the state and college, the information shared in the counseling session is confidential and will not be released to any other person or agency, outside of supervision or consultation, without the client’s written consent except in the following situations: 

  • When the counselor believes the client may cause serious and foreseeable harm to another person or harm to self;
  • When there are clear suspicions of child abuse, abuse of people with disabilities, or elder abuse;
  • When records are mandated by a court;
  • When Clery Act offense require the disclosure; or
  • When campus police and/or college leadership need information resulting from or regarding an emergency situation, the information shared will be limited to the immediate situation. Student counseling records or personal information will not be shared without a Release of Information Form.  

Risk for Harm to Self

Assessment for clients to be at-risk for self-harm is part of the counseling process. Students who are referred to Counseling Services by a faculty/staff member or student because a class assignment, verbal communication, online post, or post on social media indicated the student was at-risk for harm to self will be contacted to determine the level of risk. 

The following steps will be taken when a student is assessed to be at risk to cause imminent serious and foreseeable harm to self: 

  1. The student’s emergency contact, family member or friend, will be contacted except in situations where there is suspected abuse or that trauma could result from the third party. The student will be encouraged to make the initial call; however, if the student is unwilling or unable to communicate with the contact, a counselor will call. Once the emergency contact has been notified, a plan will be developed for transportation to the local Emergency Room for an evaluation. In the event of an immediate threat to self and when family and/or friends are not available, Counseling Services will contact the Northeast State Police Department for transportation to a local hospital. 

      2. Transportation options include:

  • The emergency contact will transport the student in his/her own car when the student is cooperative and an active participant in the plan; or
  • The emergency contact will stay with the student until the Mobile Crisis Stabilization Unit is available to conduct the evaluation on campus; or
  • The Northeast State Police Department will transport the student when an emergency contact is unable or unavailable to drive the student or the student is hostile, aggressive or refuses treatment. A second officer will accompany the student riding in the back and/or a counselor will ride in the front of the police vehicle when possible to reduce the potential for physical and or psychological harm to the student.

      3. The student and emergency contact will sign and date the agreed upon plan of action and sign a Release of Information for Counseling Services to receive the third-party evaluation when possible. 

If a student who is referred to be at-risk for self-harm is off campus, a call will be made to his/her emergency contact and/or to the local Sheriff’s office for a well safety check. 

Risk for Harm to Others

When a student is assessed to be at-risk to cause serious and foreseeable harm to others, Counseling Services staff will first secure their own safety and the safety of those in the immediate area, and then will immediately contact the Northeast State Police Department and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

When a counselor has clear suspicions of child abuse, Counseling Services will contact the Department of Children's Service's Central Intake Division Child Abuse Hotline at 1.877.237.0004 or 1.877.54ABUSE (1.877.542.2873). 

When a counselor has clear suspicions of elder abuse and neglect, a report will be made to the Tennessee Adult Protective Services at 1.888.APS.TENN (1.888.277.8366). 

Release of Information

A student may consent to the release of information by signing a Release of Information (ROI) form or may be asked to sign an ROI for Counseling Services to obtain the student’s medical and/or counseling records. Each ROI specifies what information can be released and to whom, as well as the length of time that the ROI is valid. The ROI can be rescinded by the student at any time. Counseling records will never be a part of the educational record.  

Code of Ethics

The ACA Code of Ethics, approved by the American Counseling Association Governing Council, provides an ethical guide for professional counselors and counselors-in-training. It is located at: http://www.counseling.org/Resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf.



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Divisional Review Responsibilities Checklist: Student Affairs

Revision History: September 2014