LETTER: Elise Harrison responds to “ECAPS overwhelmed by student demand”

Letter to the Editor from Elise Harrison, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services

I would like to clarify several things in the article about Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services by Maya Gacina. The most important thing I want students to know is that, although we are very busy, we do have time to meet with students to help them when they are having a difficult time or when they are experiencing emotional distress. We do not want any student to feel alone when they are struggling with problems that they need to talk to someone about. In Maya’s article, concerns were raised about services provided by ECAPS, the number of staff, and how accessible our services are to the community, and I hope to address these concerns in this letter to help clarify.

The first time a student comes to ECAPS they make a ‘triage appointment’ within 48-72 hours. Triage is a shorter appointment that focuses on determining a student’s needs and making a plan for resolving their concerns. In many cases, the student will schedule an appointment to return for additional therapy sessions at ECAPS, but in some cases, the student and therapist decide together that the student would benefit from long-term therapy in the community.

When a student is referred off-campus for long term therapy, the therapist sends a list of three or four outside therapists with their addresses, phone numbers, and/or emails. The therapist also asks the student if they want to return to ECAPS for another in-person session to be sure they have been able to schedule an appointment off-campus. Although some students do come in for an in-person follow-up, many prefer a follow-up email to see if they were able to connect with a therapist in the community. Still, many times we do not hear back from students after giving a list of referrals and sending an email. Consistent with our philosophy that going to therapy is the choice of the student, we will wait for the student to request more information or referrals before contacting them again.

We are excited to welcome a case manager to our staff beginning in September 2018. The case manager will be in the office three days a week and will work closely with students who want to find a therapist in the community who matches their needs. A dedicated case manager will provide expertise in the area of referrals, so the staff psychotherapists will be able to focus on providing therapy services.

In terms of our staffing, we have five full-time staff and three part-time staff who are Massachusetts licensed, a clinical coordinator (Ellie Martinez, the first voice you will hear when you call ECAPS), three part-time graduate interns who are advanced doctoral candidates, and a part-time consulting psychiatrist. This semester, to cover two staff members who are out on maternity leave, we hired two temporary staff psychotherapists. We are adding a full-time post-doctoral fellow and a part-time case manager in the fall of 2018.

Thank you so much to the Berkeley Beacon and Maya for highlighting the importance of mental health services at Emerson. We invite anyone who would like to know more about counseling services to visit our website at http://www.emerson.edu/counseling-center or follow Rudy’s Instagram at @DogTorRudy_at_ECAPS. If you would like to meet with a staff therapist, you can call us at 617-824-8595 or stop in to our office in the Union Bank Building at 216 Tremont Street on the second floor.

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