ProvidingAOD Services to Students in College

Acolleague posed the following questions on an online discussion group to whichI subscribe:

I am seeking feedback about how private,Christian colleges provide substance abuse treatment for students. Specifically, how are referrals from administrative sources such as judicialaffairs handled?  Are there separate mandated and voluntarytreatments?  How is student confidentiality maintained or addressed inlight of community abstinence policies? 

Hereis the reply I posted to the list:

Theseare wonderful questions and ones that get asked all to infrequently,especially by administrators in higher ed. The good news, as the saying goes,is that there are literally thousands of pages written on this general topicand these specific questions…the bad news is, there are literally thousandsof pages written on this general topic and these questions J So, where to start…
Howare referrals from administrative sources such as judicial affairs handled? When student affairsand judicial affairs are walking in sync, this is a relatively easy question toaddress. When at a small, urban, Catholic university, we negotiated what wecalled an “alternate sanctions program” for those first-offenders or subsequentoffenders where the infractions were minor, e.g., no hospitalization; noinjuries. In this program, there were set consequences that would followspecific violations—deferred suspension of housing, probation, etc.—butstudents were offered the choice between a hefty monetary fine or toparticipate in an alcohol awareness program modeled on harm reduction andMotivational Interviewing as the last consequence of the violation. Thisincreased the likelihood that students would participate in the educationalalternative and do so “voluntarily,” which allowed the practitioner presentingthe program to be the “good guy” who allowed the student to save $X, not tomention used choice to more directly involve the student in the process.

Howis student confidentiality maintained or addressed in light of communityabstinence policies? Regarding the issue ofconfidentiality, students would be told at the first session that everythingthat went on in the sessions was confidential and nothing, including attendanceinfo, would be released w/o a written consent to do so. That said, studentswere reminded that it would be in their best interest to allow judicial affairsto at least know about their attendance. NOTE: A written report would beprepared for Judicial Affairs, but again would not be released until (1) thestudent reviewed the report with the practitioner and (2) provided the writtenconsent. A similar process was used with MANDATED students. NOTE: As acounselor I addressed the “seeing mandated clients” dilemma by ensuringstudents that I “work for you and not judicial affairs” and for this reasonwould not release info unless such was indicative of likely harm to oneself orothers. For details/copies of forms/etc. please contact me back channel:

Atthe end of every semester I would routinely hear from judicial affairs abouthow students actually found the alcohol sessions interesting if not enjoyable.I would be asked, “What are you doing over there? When we sent him/her yourway, he/she went kicking and screaming.” It was this student compliance withthe program that allowed judicial affairs to recognize that approachinghigh-risk student behavior as something done “with a student” rather than “to astudent” was actually more productive…a collaborative rather than adversarialapproach.

Wherethe issues you raise become challenging is when senior administration and/orjudicial affairs folks see violation of institutional policy as being a hangingoffense AND assert their need to know everything that goes on as the result ofthat violations. In this day and age we tend to see institutions open to mysuggestions above regarding alcohol, but closed to them when the violation isfor “drugs other than alcohol.”

Isuggest that you look at the literature related to (1) environmental managementand (2) Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention with College Students, BASICS.Basic info on both can be found on my web site. I also suggest that looking atmy 3-monograph series entitled, When They Drink, especially the first one,which includes invited essays on all aspects of addressing high-risk anddangerous collegiate drinking. Links can be found at

What do you think?

Dr. Robert


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