Tips For Working With Students
(Part 3 of 6)

Here's the next set of tips and suggestions for working with students who come in with some specific issues and patterns. Again, please use your own judgment and follow your school and district policies and the relevant laws.

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How do I work with a student who’s been referred to me but doesn’t want to talk?


~ Acknowledge that you know it can be uncomfortable to talk to someone new.

~ Be up front with the student about who referred him/her and what the concern was.

~ Tell the student that any questions you ask are optional, that there’s nothing he/she will be forced to answer.

~ Clarify confidentiality guidelines.

~ Ask if it’s okay to ask some 0-10 questions, just to get a sense of what’s happening. Ask general 0-10 questions about stress level, happiness at school, home, with friends, and with self.

~ If the student begins to open up, go slowly.

~ If the student won’t talk, ask if there’s anything he/she needs from you regarding school or anything else.

~ If you plan to call or talk with anyone about your time with the student (such as the parent or teacher who referred him/her to you), let the student know that you’re going to do that and what you plan to say.

~ Let the student know you are always available, and invite him/her to come back with any questions or concerns, large or small. That may not happen, but you never know how much difference the offer might make.


How do I work with a student who's focused on relationship problems, and who’s putting a lot more energy into a relationship than into school?


~ Hear what the student has to say about the relationship or pattern of relationships. Validate feelings even if you don’t agree with the student’s choices or decisions.

~ Ask what the student has already tried or done toward resolving the issues, and what he/she sees as options in the situation.

~ Offer other possible options if you see them.

~ Ask the question, “Which way do you pay the higher price?” about the various options. This is one of my favorite questions to ask when none of the options in a situation feel good. Encourage the student to choose the lowest price (emotionally, financially, or otherwise).

~ Give the student information about healthy relationships, boundaries, “I” statements, communication skills, the Drama Triangle, Choices & Prices, etc., (and opportunities to practice new skills) so he/she can see the bigger picture.

~ Ask how the student is doing in school and other parts of his/her life. Encourage balancing relationship concerns with other responsibilities and interests.

~ Teach and encourage lots of self-care and stress management.

~ Talk with the student about his/her own interests, dreams, and future plans, separate from the relationship.

~ If the student returns to talk about the same relationship issues over and over, gently point out your concern, and focus on steps the student can take to change the situation or move forward.

~ Invite the student to keep you posted on how things turn out as he/she takes steps forward.

Go to the next page, "Tips For Working With Students -- Part 4

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