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Forbes Residential College.

By David Veldran

A new University initiative hopes to bring the services of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) closer to home.

The University has hired its first CPS outreach counselor, Mike Gross, who will be housed in Forbes College two days a week.

The second of the two outreach counselors that the University has hired, Jessica Joseph, will reside in Butler College two days a week. Gross has already begun work at the University, while Joseph will begin her new position in January.

The outreach counselors’ primary function is to bring CPS services closer to students, making those services more readily available. Instead of appointments, counselors will have drop-in hours during which any student can come meet a counselor.

“They provide a different kind of contact than McCosh Health Center,” said Calvin Chin, head of CPS. “The idea is that by lowering the bar and making it feel less formal, it may increase students’ ability to talk to a counselor when they need to.”

Although they both are positioned in residential colleges, the outreach counselors are not only for students in those residential colleges — any undergraduate or graduate student can visit either outreach counselor during their drop-in hours.

Gross will also spend two days of his week in Jadwin Gymnasium working with athletes, while Joseph will spend two days of her week in the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. Additionally, both outreach counselors will also have a day in which they can be found in McCosh.

In addition to serving students during drop-in hours, the University also plans for outreach counselors to have a role in mental health and wellbeing education. They will lead workshops that teach mindfulness, self-compassion, and stress management.

“Half of their time is doing things like groups, and educational activities, in addition to one-on-one care,” said Sonya Satinsky, director of health promotion and prevention services at University Health Services. 

The outreach counselors were hired as a part of the University’s TigerWell program. That program was created and funded by the Eclan Family Fund for Wellness Innovation, a $5 million gift over five years that goes to “wellbeing initiatives.”

“One of the things the family was particularly interested in is how we create access to mental healthcare for those folks who might be less likely or uninterested in coming in to access CPS,” Satinsky said. 

Chin and Satinsky said that there is currently no certain plan to hire more outreach counselors. They noted that the hiring of Gross and Joseph is part of a pilot project, and they would wait to see how high student demand for time with the counselors is.

“Students understandably have been looking for increased access to care, so we’re trying something new, and we want to see what that actually looks like,” Satinsky said. “Is there an increased demand for these folks? Are they being utilized to their full extent? If so, yes, I think there’s definitely the potential for expanding this.”

USG President Rachel Yee ’19 expressed optimism towards the outreach counselor program. 

“This seems like a very big victory in a short amount of time in Princeton standards,” Yee said.

The program, Yee said, was very similar to the CPS satellite offices she had spoken about in her campaign, and she believes that the outreach counselors are an invaluable first step towards that goal.

“This is something I hoped would come to fruition while I was here as a student but did not fully expect to happen,” Yee said. “This is one of the things I’m most excited and proud to have advocated for.”

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