Let’s Talk, UChicago’s free and informal drop-in therapy program, has expanded for a limited time, adding one extra drop-in hour per week for fall quarter (for a total of five extra hours) and bringing on five new specially trained therapists, whose areas of expertise range from “kink and polyamorous students” to “LGBTQQ students.”
The Center for Identity and Inclusion (CII) and Student Counseling Service (SCS) announced the changes earlier in October. The expanded hours went into effect October 24. The expansion was made possible by the CII bringing on five new therapists to the program. Each of the five additional hours will be accommodated by one of the new therapists, with the therapists rotating every week.
On Facebook, UChicago United (UC United) described the new hires as “in-house, culturally competent therapists,” and claimed their hiring was a result of UC United’s yearlong advocacy efforts. UC United, a coalition of the University of Chicago’s multicultural student organizations (including Organization of Black Students (OBS), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán and PanAsia Solidarity Coalition), was formed in 2017 “to make the University of Chicago campus more inclusive for students of marginalized backgrounds and identities.”
UC United requested culturally competent therapists in their statement to Provost Melissa Gilliam this May, as part of their campaign for cultural centers—primarily “the creation of a University funded and run cultural houses, specifically a Black House, a Latinx House, and an Asian House that stand independent of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs”—that began last May.
When asked to comment on the University’s announcement, UC United said they were “happy to hear about the new changes to the Let’s Talk program and are excited to see how the improvements will help marginalized students in the near future.”
OBS President Cavell Means agreed that the change will benefit students. Having had positive experiences with Adia Gooden, one of the five new therapists, Means told The Maroon that “having someone who related to me without any additional context given and was happy to help me work through my issues was invaluable.” Means also felt that increasing the visibility of such therapists “removes some of the stigma surrounding mental health.”
However, UC United criticized the decision to have the therapists rotate, elaborating that they hope to see “in house therapists that are available during the open hours of the Center, rather than just rotating.” Going forward, UC United wants to focus on other aspects of their campaign for cultural centers, such as the establishment of “University-funded and University-run Black, Latinx, and Asian/Asian American centers” each with in-house culturally competent therapists