The Brandeis Counseling Center is expanding its services this semester after receiving more funding from the Division of Student Affairs. New additions include more staff members who will be available for extended hours, more programs and therapy dogs-in-training. The changes, announced in an Aug. 24 email from Vice President of Student Affairs Sheryl Sousa, come in the wake of a forum on mental health hosted by the BCC last spring. 

The changes focus on accessibility, first-year mental health and outreach. A new pre-orientation program called Resilience, Information, Skills, and Experiences was offered this fall to incoming first-year students in partnership with Dr. Hannah Snyder (PSYC). The program teaches incoming first-years new skills to “help them thrive in college,” according to the program’s website, and those involved will continue to meet throughout the semester. The program is scheduled to continue in the spring for first-years that wish to stay in RISE and will be available to incoming midyears, according Dr. Joy Von Steiger in an email to the Justice. She said 25 students are in the program this semester. 

Both Massell and North quads will have designated clinician “community therapists” holding drop-in hours. The Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Intercultural Center, the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and the International Business School will also have designated community therapists offering drop in hours as well. The University provided funding for five of these clinicians, according to von Steiger. Dr. Tal Nir will be running a cognitive behavior therapy program to teach students techniques for managing depression and anxiety. Von Steiger said that Brandeis is the only institution with an extensive program of this kind. 

The BCC is also hiring two more therapists to work at the Center. Hours for the BCC were expanded to 8 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, making the Center’s hours 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.  Finally, two therapy dogs-in-training, Lily and Harley, will be acclimated to people in preparation for service and will have their own drop-in hours scheduled for Mondays at 3:30 p.m. in the BCC, according to Von Steiger.  

In addition to the new programs and services, the email covered a change in the way insurance will be processed at the BCC. Previously, students were offered between 1 and 12 free sessions at the Center per year, and afterward used their health insurance to continue therapy sessions with the BCC. The new system eliminates the 12 free sessions, meaning insurance companies will be billed from the first session.  

Sousa said in her Aug. 24 email that the new system will help “offset the rising cost of healthcare without putting limits on student services.” She added that the Brandeis Health Center’s similar system for providing student healthcare has proven successful. 

According to Dr. Von Steiger, “All copays and deductibles [will be] covered by the University,” and the BCC will not bill students or family.  “Most insurance plans will cover services at the BCC, but if a student’s insurance does not cover care at the BCC, we will offer that student free care,” Von Steiger said in the same email. 

The director also clarified that if a student’s insurance documentation is typically sent to their family and the student would rather their family not know about their therapy at the BCC, that student can choose to receive free care instead of using their insurance. 

Sousa said in her email that the Division of Student Affairs “increased [their] financial investment in the Brandeis Counseling Center,”  but it is presently unclear if the BCC will use those funds to pay for students who request free care. 

In the past, the Center has waived session limits for survivors of sexual abuse and general trauma. According to their website, the BCC “will not limit students’ care due to session limits, ability to pay, or limited health insurance.”