The Psychological Counseling Center has added volunteer student representative positions to its team as a part of a greater initiative to improve outreach to the Brandeis community. Emily Kurtz ’15, Anna Grandis ’17 and Leah Friend ’17 are currently serving in these roles.

According to Senior Associate Director and Clinical Director of the PCC Joy Von Steiger, the student representatives will act as liaisons between Brandeis students and the PCC.

She further wrote in an email to the Justice that both Kurtz and Grandis reached out to her to ask if they could volunteer at the PCC in the fall.

Kurtz said in an interview with the Justice that at the time, students were not allowed to work in the PCC for confidentiality reasons.

“I invited them in to meet with me and expected to talk to them about projects I had in mind and was surprised to be greeted by two young women who pitched a number of ideas about how they could promote the counseling center in new and innovative ways to the students,” wrote Von Steiger. “I was taken aback and thrilled.”

Kurtz said that the team met for the first time in December before winter break.

“The idea is that we will be similar to Undergraduate Department Representatives for academic departments, but all information between the students and the therapists, counselors [and/or] psychiatrists they see will still be completely confidential,” Grandis wrote in an email to the Justice.

“We can answer questions about the different groups offered, the types of therapy that the therapists are trained in, how many sessions are free, etc.”

Friend joined the team as well, and the three new representatives created a new Facebook page for the PCC.

The representatives, according to Von Steiger, will be putting their contact information on the Facebook page.

Kurtz mentioned that students cannot message or comment on the page for concerns regarding student confidentiality, but that students can feel free to reach out to the student representatives in order to ask them questions about the PCC.

“[E]verybody knows about the PCC, but [the PCC] found that a lot of students aren’t using it, and so … the idea behind the student representatives is to kind of promote the PCC,” said Kurtz.

The representatives are currently helping to plan an event aimed to reduce stress, which Kurtz said would potentially take place around mid-March.

This event will feature therapy dogs, which are trained to comfort specific groups of individuals, namely those going through difficult periods, those who are rehabilitating or those who have emotional disorders.

Kurtz shared further plans to hand out flyers and to table in the Usdan Student Center to promote the PCC and to share what the student representatives have been working on.

She also noted potential plans to create a survey to find out why more students are not using the PCC services.

Von Steiger did not respond with the number of students who currently use the PCC by press time.

Part of the representative role, according to Kurtz, is to reduce the perceived stigma associated with using PCC services that may keep many students from seeking help.

“I think [people do not use the PCC because] Brandeis is such a small school, and people are afraid of other people seeing them,” Kurtz wrote in the email.

“Because there’s a stigma behind mental health in general, I think that makes people more self-conscious to go there, and I guess part of our position is to eradicate that and to make people feel more comfortable using the PCC services.”

Both Grandis and Kurtz noted that they are Psychology majors. Friend did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The representatives have also been advertising a number of new therapy groups on the Facebook page as well.

These new groups include support for individuals with eating disorders, support for sexual assault survivors and a cognitive-behavioral therapy group, among others.

According to Von Steiger, however, the PCC is still providing about the same number of clinical hours as this time last year.

Von Steiger also noted some other upcoming initiatives, including a March 16 workshop regarding panic disorders, as well as an effort to collaborate more closely with the Department of Community Living.

PCC staff will be visiting residence halls as a part of this initiative, potentially holding workshops and meet and greets.

Additionally, the PCC is hoping to partner with Hillel in order “to respond locally to terrorism and anti-Semitism abroad,” Von Steiger wrote.