How to Make a Community Referral for Treatment

School is a place for learning, growth, and development for all students.  For students with anxiety and/or OCD, they may have needs that go beyond the scope of what can be provided in the school setting.  Some students may already be connected with an outside support team, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, and/or support group, while others may not.  In these cases, it might fall to school personnel to assist the student in getting connected to treatment and support in their community.


Starting a Conversation about a Community Referral

If a family asks for your help in seeking a referral to treatment, the following are some suggestions for starting the conversation with the student and/or their family:

  • Build upon your existing rapport with the student/family to bring up things you may have noticed that are leading you to make this referral.
  • Work on speaking without judgment and avoid using black/white statements.
  • Focus on stating facts and remaining neutral.
  • Reiterate that it is not “weird” or “shameful” to have mental health concerns, and that they are not character flaws or misbehavior on the part of the student.
  • Recognize how scary it can be to hear that they might have a mental health condition, and provide space for the discussion of their concerns.
  • Emphasize that the student has an illness that is as legitimate as a physical illness and deserves to be addressed.
  • Acknowledge how difficult things may have been for the student/family since symptoms first started appearing. Remember – parents/families are often just as much in need of support as the student!
How to make a community referral for treatment for students with anxiety or OCD

When it comes to making a referral itself, the IOCDF’s Resource Directory can be a great tool for school personnel. The Resource Directory contains listings of licensed therapists, clinics, support groups, and organizations that specialize in working with OCD and related disorders in youth. Anyone can search the Resource Directory by zip code, city/state, city/country, or full street address in order to find results close to them.


Tips for Making a Community Referral

  • Familiarize yourself with the resources within your community so that you can make a more confident and informed referral.
  • Continue to follow up with the student/family post-referral as appropriate (based on your role and relationship), checking in on their needs and how things are going.
  • Remember to account for family members – parent/family/sibling support groups are often helpful.

Some school personnel may have the time and space to do their own research and create a resource sheet for their school district.  Other school personnel may not be able to do this, and may instead support the student/family in doing it on their own.  In either case, the following tips can be helpful for school personnel, families, and students alike.


Tips for Choosing a Treatment Team

Some families may ask for guidance in choosing a treatment team for their child - it can be overwhelming to not know where to start, or how best to go about doing so.  Remind families that they have every right to interview mental health professionals before making a decision about who to see. If the professional is guarded, withholding of information, or angry at requests for more information, they should probably look elsewhere.


Click the plus sign below to view examples of good interview questions to ask when considering a mental health professional.

In rare cases, school may be the only place where the student receives professional support for their anxiety or OCD.  If this is true for one of your students, the best course of action will be to work as a team to address the child’s school-related needs, while providing the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) with resources for helping at home.  To learn more, click here for a teamwork framework for school personnel and here for resources for families.