Helping students in the residence hall is a major responsibility for resident advisors. Being a freshman RA for two years, I have done my share of problem solving. Students will come to you for many different problems such as relationship, roommate, academic, social, emotional, health, family, etc. It is important to guide the resident in effective problem solving. Here are some helpful hints for effective problem solving:
1. Maintain confidentiality. This is very important. If a resident is afraid that you will blab to others, he or she is less likely to ask for help. Explain to the resident about confidentiality, and let them know that you will not share information about your discussion with others.
2. Let the resident know that you are willing to listen, and you’ll work to assist them to resolve their problem, but you might not be able to help them solve their problem.
3. Be careful if you give a resident advice. It is easy to give advice that is not always practical. Do not be afraid of not having an answer, and make referrals when they are appropriate.
4. Give the resident information about other individuals on campus that can assist the student with their problem. This is particularly important if the student comes to you with a serious issue that is beyond your ability to help. Provide phone numbers of counselors, nurses, or others that may be able to assist the student.
5. If you make a referral, and the student seems hesitant to seek outside assistance, offer to help them make first contact with a referral person. Let the resident know that you are willing to go with them to a first meeting with a referral person. Accompany the student to that meeting.
6. Make sure to know the rules and regulations of your school. The more informed you are, the more helpful you will be.
7. Keep a cool head. Remain level-headed, objective, and open-minded.
8. Be aware of your feelings, and don’t impose your feelings on another student.
9. Accept the student’s feelings and thoughts. You do not have to agree, but you do need to accept.
10. Be tactful. Avoid putting the resident down.
11. Keep in check with the student. Make sure that everything is working out for them. He or she might need to talk again.
12. The most important part of effective problem solving is being willing to listen to the student.
Submitted by Rachel Sawyers, Resident Assistant, Carlow College