CAPS targets multicultural students with new drop-in program

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

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In an effort to demystify the counseling process and offer more support, specifically to multicultural students, Counseling and Psychological Services has started “Let’s Talk,” a new drop-in consultation program.

“Let’s Talk” was started at Cornell University and is offered at 19 universities nationally, CAPS psychologist Monika Gutkowska said.

Northwestern is the second Midwest school to offer the free program, after the University of Chicago.

“It’s basically a program developed to engage community and students who underutilize counseling but need support and would benefit from it,” Gutkowska said. “It’s different, obviously, from counseling. It’s more an informal consultation for students to talk about particular problems, seek advice and support and referrals.”

Gutkowska said “Let’s Talk” is not an alternative to formal counseling and does not constitute mental health treatment. However, the service offers students an opportunity to experience it on an informal basis.

Associated Student Government president Ani Ajith, a former Daily staffer, said “Let’s Talk” is part of a larger effort to broaden CAPS’ services. 

“We have been, of course, talking with Dr. (John) Dunkle and Monika Gutkowska about (ways) in which to ensure students, no matter what their background is and their familiarity with mental health resources and mental health professionals is, they feel comfortable accessing CAPS’ resources and services,” the Weinberg senior said.

The program began in December and consultants have so far seen three students. However, CAPS executive director John Dunkle said the organization just began an advertising campaign. 

“My hope is that this is sort of like a pilot and we’re seeing how it goes,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that it’s going to be very successful, that hopefully we will maybe be able to offer ‘Let’s Talk’ in other areas on campus and perhaps even in Chicago.”

“Let’s Talk” is offered Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the International Office and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Multicultural Center. On Fridays, Spanish-speaking counselors will also be available. 

While the program is available for all NU undergraduate and graduate students, there is a specific focus on reaching international and multicultural students.

“One of the things that we noticed is that for students with a multicultural background is that the stigma in relation to mental health tends to be stronger,” said Giovanna Rivano Gomez, a psychology intern at CAPS. “So one of the things that we wanted to do was just create a bond with the Multicultural Students Affairs Office so that it creates a bridge between them searching or looking for support there and then being comfortable coming to CAPS if there is a need for it.”

In May, CAPS received funding to hire therapists, including one who would specifically reach out to Hispanic and Latino students. Dunkle said while the other two therapists have been hired, this last position has been more challenging to fill. However, he said “Let’s Talk” is another way for CAPS to support those students.  

Ajith also said he believed the location of the services would benefit multicultural students.

“Research shows that oftentimes, people from specific cultures are less likely to access help provided by mental health professionals,” he said. “That is scientifically researched and available, and this is in response to that kind of clearly identified need.”

Twitter: @tylerpager