MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service is an unusual university counseling center where unlimited sessions and medication is possible. The center offers numerous programs, but among those, “Let’s Chat” and group counseling are programs that are most notable.
“Let’s Chat” is a national program that enables students access to informal, free and confidential consultations with school counselors. Clinicians from the center would stay in locations where students are familiar with, such as the Office of Minority Education and International Student Office. During the two-hour stay, students can easily drop in, eat snacks, and talk about anything with the counselors. The idea of providing a low-key and less intimidating atmosphere rings deep with the core goal of the center, which is to help students feel more comfortable about seeking psychological help. Group counseling is what Dr. Singleton sees as the most important program of the center. There is currently 18 groups, with two counselors to assist each one. The program gives students an opportunity to engage with each other as an alternative to individual counseling. Each group addresses different subjects; eating concerns, sexual assault survival, women of color and more. “The group program is something that I’m most proud of, because we have so many skilled clinicians that enjoy running groups,” Dr. Singleton said with a smile. “Group programs are important because when we see a trend, we can quickly address it by starting a group. For example, we recently started a group of international students who were upset about the travel ban.” The center was also concerned about waiting time, a chronic problem in every university counseling service. When there is high demand, students sometimes have to wait up to six weeks. The center’s aim is to make people wait no more than three and a half weeks.
“This problem is tricky because hiring more people doesn’t really reduce wait time,” Dr. Singleton said. “If we hire four more people, others would say ‘Oh, there must be no wait time at all.’ But seeing 12 more people per week isn’t going to lessen wait time considerably.” When asked how they could provide such services, Singleton replied that resources are important. Regarding the difference between counseling centers in Ivy League schools and other universities, Dr. Singleton said it’s not surprising that there is a gap.
“Counseling service in schools like Yale or Harvard have more money to use in advertising, they have more money to put into outreach, and they have a budget for fliers. Although it could be multifactorial, resources allow you to do things.”