The challenges faced by university educators in Singapore when referring students to counsellors: An instrumental case study

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Steven Ng Poh Yaip and Dr Ada Chung Yee Lin



This study examines the difficulties faced by two university professors working in a public, autonomous university in Singapore, when referring students to counselling services. Educators typically observe how students interact and behave in class, and may refer students to counselling services. However, there is little research into how educators experience and view this role, particularly in higher education in Asia. Two university professors who had referred students to their university’s counselling centre took part in semi-structured interviews for the study. From these interviews, the study revealed educators can face a range of challenges in their referral role, such as lack of knowledge about mental health, how to keep a professional boundary with the student, and how to help students who view counselling as shameful. This study provides insight for counselling practitioners, school policymakers, and student services into the difficulties faced by educators when referring students to counsellors, and how educators could be better supported in this role. This study could also provide a foundation for additional research into whether educators should be better equipped to serve as informed sources of counselling referrals.



The authors would like to thank Dean of Students, Professor Paulin Tay Straughan (SMU), for her support and Associate Professor David Ng Foo Seong (NTU/NIE) for his guidance. The authors are deeply appreciative to PACJA editorial team, Dr Gávi Ansara and Dr Rhys Price-Robertson, for their kind sharing of expertise and knowledge. Finally, thank you to the two faculty staff for their participation. This project would not be possible without their gracious involvement. 


Keywords: challenges, counselling, referral, higher education, case study, recommendations


Address for Correspondence

Steven Ng Poh Yaip
Contact: stevenng@smu.edu.sg

Dr Ada Chung Yee Lin
Contact: adachung@smu.edu.sg