Unrealistic Students

These students have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, the dream from the waking state. Their thinking is typically illogical, confused, disturbed; they may coin new words, see or hear things which no one else can, have irrational beliefs, and exhibit bizarre or inappropriate behavior. Generally, these students are not dangerous and are very scared, frightened and overwhelmed. They are much more frightened of you than you are of them.

Do:

  • Respond with warmth and kindness, but with firm reasoning.
  • Remove extra stimulation from the environment and see them in a quiet atmosphere (if you are comfortable in doing so).
  • Acknowledge your concerns and state that you can see they need help, (e.g., "It seems very hard for you to integrate all these things that are happening and I am concerned about you. I'd like to help").
  • Acknowledge the feelings or fears without supporting the misperceptions, (e.g., "I understand you think they are trying to hurt you and I know how real it seems to you, but I don't hear the voices (see the devil, etc.)").
  • Reveal your difficulty in understanding them (when appropriate), (e.g., "I'm sorry but I don't understand. Could you repeat that or say it in a different way?").
  • Focus on the "here and now." Switch topics and divert the focus from the irrational to the rational or the real.
  • Speak to their healthy side, which they DO have. It's okay to joke, laugh, or smile when appropriate.

Don't:

  • Argue or try to convince them of the irrationality of their thinking for it makes them defend their positions (false perceptions) more.
  • Play along (e.g., "Oh yeah, I hear the voices/see the devil.").
  • Encourage further revelations of craziness.
  • Demand, command, or order.
  • Expect customary emotional responses.