Counseling and Psychological Services is branching out.
After both the Student Wellness Project and the Intercultural Resource Center urged CPS to expand its reach, the office started having drop-in hours in the IRC brownstone on West 114th Street.
Last May, the SWP leaders submitted a report to Columbia College Dean James Valentini calling for a restructuring and an expansion of CPS.
Addette Williams, senior CPS psychologist, began hosting office hours in the IRC every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The hours are open to all students, not just IRC residents.
A CPS spokesperson said that these office hours, like the main counseling services in Lerner Hall, are designed to help students overcome difficult challenges and maintain good mental health.
Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri, CC ’15 and an IRC resident, said that she thought the addition of office hours could help kindle more conversation about mental health and wellness.
“There is so much stigma about mental health on campus—that’s why people don’t talk about it, and then they feel even more depressed,” she said. “I remember at my orientation that no mentions were really made of CPS, and that should probably change.”
In a recent interview with Spectator, Interim Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez said that the office hours were created to help students grapple with sensitive topics that may come up in the IRC.
“Quite often, some of the dialogue of some of the programs that are held in the IRC can be very challenging, very personal,” she said. “So, when working with CPS, we asked, ‘Can we have an additional staff member and house them in the IRC?’”
The expansion comes after the Student Wellness Project conducted a critical study of the counseling program last semester.
“Drop-in counseling services are designed to provide students with an opportunity to speak with a CPS clinician on a range of issues,” the CPS spokesperson said in an email. “When life presents challenges, such as adjusting to life in a new city or a new country; making career choices; or managing academics and relationships, CPS encourages students to maintain balance with socializing, exercising, eating well, sleeping, and schoolwork.”
While these new office hours might seem like a victory for SWP’s ongoing efforts to improve student wellness on campus, the new opportunity could single out students who are seeking counseling.
“I can’t imagine myself walking to the IRC, though. It would be obvious I was seeking psychological services, and I wouldn’t want that,” Zena Sockwell, CC ’17, who does not live in the IRC, said.
Sockwell added that if she were to seek out counseling, she probably would visit the original location in Lerner because it is less conspicuous.
Cameron Erdogan, SEAS ’14, said that he thought the addition was more effective than other measures administrators have taken.
“I think it may be good for coping with Columbia stress—definitely better than window stops,” he said.
SWP leaders did not respond to requests for comment.