Counseling and Psychological Services expanded its outreach initiative “Let’s Talk” to the Nelson Fitness Center and the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center this semester after a successful pilot program at the Brown Center for Students of Color and the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center last fall.
Therapists who are part of the Let’s Talk program hold informal drop-in hours at campus centers that serve student groups who tend not to seek counseling. Through the program, CAPS hopes to reach out to students “who have some stigma around counseling,” said Allyson Brathwaite-Gardner, interim director of CAPS.
“I think it was an effort to create some bridges in different places and these centers are places where students do congregate naturally,” said Linda Welsh, psychotherapist at CAPS. “There are certain student groups that maybe have less familiarity with counseling,” and this program aims “to kind of lower the anxiety level of going to go some place else.”
Let’s Talk is “not a replacement for a therapy session” and does not involve “probing and dynamic work, like what therapy can be,” Nikole Barnes, psychotherapist at CAPS, said.
Instead, Let’s Talk open hours engage in “casual conversation” about available services, counseling and self-care, Barnes said. Sessions are similar to a professor’s office hours in that a psychotherapist is available at regular times every week to talk to students on a first-come, first-serve basis. This semester, CAPS will host open hours at all four centers for around one or two hours per week, depending on each campus partner’s request, she added.
Another way by which Let’s Talk meetings differ from CAPS appointments is that a student can choose to remain anonymous unless there are safety concerns regarding the student or the community, Barnes added.
The Let’s Talk initiative at Brown is modeled in part on Cornell’s program of the same name. After several months of background research and speaking to campus partners, CAPS rolled out pilots at the BCSC and SDWC last fall, Brathwaite-Garder said.
Following the pilot program, both FLIC and the athletics department reached out to CAPS, Barnes said.
Each therapist is assigned to a single center over the course of the semester in an effort to foster long-term relationships with students. Many therapists participating in the Let’s Talk program work with centers they feel a personal connection to themselves. “I wanted to go to the women’s center to work with LGBT-identifying students, but it’s open to all students,” said Laura Sobik, interim associate director at CAPS.
Heather Wong-Bailey, psychotherapist at CAPS, stressed that “all students are welcome at all centers, regardless of where we are located.”
“From the feedback I’ve heard, students seem to really appreciate and feel reassured about the option of knowing that we are available to them,” Wong-Bailey said. The program is ideal for a student “who’s contemplating on considering counseling and isn’t quite sure what it would be like,” she added.