Brandeis Counseling Center working to deliver better care to students of color, increased transparency in finances

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October 30, 2020

The Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) is planning to work with student leaders of the Black Action Plan—which contains several demands made by students of color seeking equity on campus—to discuss how the BCC can better provide care to students of color and address criticism of the center in the plan, wrote Director of the BCC Amy Scobie-Carroll to The Brandeis Hoot in an email.  

The Black Action Plan lists concerns including privacy, the cost of therapy, diversity of the counseling staff and the integration of that staff into other Brandeis departments. According to Scobie-Carroll, the BCC is working to address those concerns. 

“I am excited for the opportunity to work closely with students, especially those historically marginalized by or excluded from the systems of mental health,” Scobie-Carroll wrote to The Hoot. “I’m grateful for the chance to hear criticism about the BCC, to learn what students’ needs are, and for the BAP to influence the future direction of the BCC.” 

The Black Action Plan asks that the BCC disclose the number of students on campus receiving counseling services to increase transparency. It also asks that the BCC disclose its privacy policies in email format during the first therapy session and remind clients of the BCC’s payment policy at the start of each session. 

The plan also calls for the university to make financial choices over the next five years to make counseling services free for all Brandeis students. “This will allow marginalized students more reasons to take care of their mental health, without discrimatory issues (money, etc.) interfering,” according to the plan

Scobie-Carroll explained to The Hoot that this part of the plan “surprised” her, since the BCC does not ask the student or family to pay directly for the services the student receives and an attempt is made to bill the insurance company for the services which are provided. The BCC submits insurance claims for all services the department provides and there are no out-of-pocket or direct costs which students have to pay for for the BCC’s services, according to their website

The plan also asks that community counselors be integrated into various departments on campus, including Public Safety, Department of Community Living (DCL) and the athletics department, according to the plan.

“Professional therapists should be accessible in all departments of the university,” reads the plan. “Therapist[s] should be used as first responders rather than an optional second hand service.” 

The plan’s concerns note that DCL should not be used as mental health support for students, and the Brandeis Police should not be responding to mental health issues since both departments are not trained clinical professionals.  

BCC community therapists currently work with six different departments on campus, including Academic Services, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GCS), Athletics, Goldfarb Library, the Intercultural Center (ICC) and DCL, according to the BCC’s website. BCC community therapists are also available exclusively for graduate students at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the International Business School.

“I am particularly excited about the request to have therapists who are ‘located in’ or work in tandem with the police at Brandeis, so that therapists can assist students when they are in crisis. I feel strongly that the BCC staff should be moving outside the BCC itself, and we need to be able to respond and move on the campus,” Scobie-Carroll wrote to The Hoot. 

The Black Action plan calls for diversifying the Brandeis counseling staff so that there are more clinical staff of color to provide culturally relevant services to students of various backgrounds, according to the plan. In addition, the plan calls for a cultural competence workshop that all counselors must participate in to offer better care to students with various diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

The BCC is a “multicultural treatment center” and its mission is to provide care to students with clinical staff who have experience working with diverse populations, according to its website. The BCC is working to deliver “culturally sensitive and competent” care to students to best meet their needs, Scobie-Carroll wrote, and having opportunities for staff education is important to providing care for students.

“It’s of the utmost importance that the BCC recruits and retains clinicians of diverse identities so that we can meet the needs of the student body,” she wrote.

In response to the plan, the multicultural committee of the BCC, or “the steering committee at the BCC responsible for leading us forward with our multicultural development,” wrote Scobie-Carroll, met with the rest of the department to read through the plan, led a staff meeting and developed next steps in response to the plan. 

Internally, the BCC has written a report with current action steps in response to the Black Action Plan and is currently working on updating their multicultural strategic plan for the 2020-2021 school year, which include objectives specifically in response to the Black Action Plan. Going forward, Scobie-Carroll hopes that students will judge the BCC, along with the rest of Brandeis, to be “safe, equitable and anti-racist.”

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth part in a series examining the Black Action Plan and its implications on campus.

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