Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

How-to Tips for Educators

The following are some basic tips for those working in educational or training settings. 

Interpersonal strategies 

  • Develop a working alliance with students. 
  • Ask your student “how can I be helpful?” and then listen.
  • Avoid advice and premature problem solving. 
  • Do not assume you know the student’s feelings, thoughts, and reasons for behaviors. 
  • Be as clear and concrete as possible. 
  • Separate the person from the problem. 
  • Agreement does not equal empathy; disagreement does not mean disconnection. 
  • A good working relationship does not require approval or shared values; you can have differences. How to deal with differences: 
    • Balance reason and emotion 
    • Demonstrate understanding 
    • Use good communication techniques 
    • Be consistent and reliable 
    • Negotiation builds respect and works better than coercion. 
    • The genius of good communication is to be at the same time as honest and as kind as possible. 
    • Pay attention to cultural, gender and racial/ethnic issues. 
    • Document your communications and interactions. 
  • Know yourself:
    • Why do you teach?
    • What do you like/dislike about working with students? 
    • With what emotions are you uncomfortable? 
    • How will you deal with your student’s feelings for you? 
    • What your “hot” buttons? Who can usually press them? 

Providing supports to students with psychiatric or mental health conditions. 

  • Identify the presence of psychiatric or mental health condition. 
  • Maximize the use of current, existing campus support services. Most campuses have disability offices and learning centers as well as some treatment services (e.g., behavioral health offices). 
  • Recognize and anticipate periods of academic inactivity (stops-outs versus drop-outs). 
  • Clarify campus policies regarding acceptable student and classroom behavior. 
  • Identify and consult with school or college’s disability services office and /or Section 504 officer. 
  • Separate treatment issues from education issues. 
  • Apply the same behavioral expectations/code of conduct to students with psychiatric conditions as you would any other student. 
  • Help students to become aware of their behavioral responsibilities in the classroom by setting concrete guidelines and clear academic requirements. 
  • Do not refer students with disabilities to support services in lieu of disciplinary measures. Referral to support services at the request of a student with a psychiatric or mental health condition who is disruptive is appropriate, but not as a disciplinary measure. 


NOTE: The information contained in these pages is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Individuals should contact the appropriate legal resources for specific legal advice regarding their particular situations.