The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Sessions provide support

Kaitlynn Riely | Thursday, January 29, 2009

For students who just want to talk about a problem they are having, but don’t know if they need counseling, there is now a room in LaFortune where, once a week, they can consult with a professional from the University Counseling Center.

The sessions, part of a program called “Let’s Talk” are free, completely confidential and require no paperwork or appointment, staff psychologist Dr. Megan Brown said.

“We’re aware that not all students are comfortable coming to the University Counseling Center or even need counseling, but they may still want to talk to a professional about issues,” she said.

The 15-20 minute consultation sessions were inspired by a program of the same name at Cornell University, which shared the information with other colleges, including Notre Dame, at a conference and through e-mails and discussions.

“Notre Dame is the first ‘franchise’ of the ‘Let’s Talk’ variety,” Brown said.

The University Counseling Center hopes the program will expand its resources to students who normally would not use them.

“That’s our vision here,” Brown said. “To be able to make our services and our skills more accessible to students.”

“Let’s Talk” provides support for undergraduate and graduate students experiencing any number of problems, Brown said, from anxiety and depression to family problems or relationship struggles. During a “Let’s Talk” session, Brown can suggest problem-solving options, provide information about resources or recommend counseling if that would be beneficial.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” Brown said. “Let’s find a solution, or let me tell you what counseling is like and how to pursue it.”

The “Let’s Talk” sessions, which run from 2 to 4 p.m. each Thursday in the Green Room on the second floor of LaFortune, started Sept. 4. The Cornell staff warned Brown that the first semester they started the program almost no one came to the sessions, but Brown said Notre Dame had better luck in its first semester.

Fourteen students visited Brown during the “Let’s Talk” hours, 11 of which were unique visitors.

“What we hope is that anyone hesitant about counseling but feels they need to talk to somebody would come over to ‘Let’s Talk,'” Brown said.

Approximately 1,000 students used the University Counseling Center last academic year, she said. Most students who go to the third floor of Saint Liam Hall are struggling with stress and anxiety or depression or symptoms of depression.

“This is a high-achieving university with high-achieving students who are under a lot of pressure,” Brown said. The Counseling Center is always looking for “innovative” ways to be proactive with problems students have, such as by starting the “Let’s Talk” program.

Brown hopes the “Let’s Talk” sessions will eliminate barriers some students face in seeking help for problems, including the perceived stigma for some have of going to the Counseling Center, the paperwork requirements and the need to make an appointment.

Brown said “Let’s Talk” could help the Counseling Center serve underrepresented groups, like men, international students, first year students and people of color, who are statistically less likely to seek out its services.

Going to “Let’s Talk” is, for some, an easier step than going to Saint Liam, Brown said.

“Let’s Talk” takes place on Thursdays during the school year from 2-4 p.m. in the Green Room on the second floor of LaFortune. Students can go to the reception area of the Office of Multicultural Student Services and Programs and International Student Services and Activities and ask to see the “Let’s Talk” consultant.