Malcolm Pradia: Importance of diversity of staff in college mental health centers

Published: 01-22-2024 5:10 PM

As a former college admissions counselor, I’m mindful that this time is an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief as final applications to college are submitted to meet a January deadline. Respite may be short lived as questions about housing and financial aid start to emerge. As a clinical social worker, I mindful that questions around mental health treatment come up, too. Students are inquiring more about clinical services; are they included in fees or is health insurance billed? How often can I be seen? What types of services are there? Remote or in person?

I hope students will also ask about the diversity of clinical staff. Can they see someone who looks sand speaks like them? No college campus has been immune from the harms of racism and last year some of the five colleges made headlines following racism. Students in communities targeted by racism are entitled to therapeutic services. Racism is traumatic and we heal through connection and relationship. Therapy is fundamentally relational; we co-regulate our nervous systems through affect in session. But will your affect be recognized by your clinician? Will you be able to access the relief found in the non-verbal universality, attunement, and security that thrives in affinity spaces?

Just as students investigate the racial diversity of campuses; consider the school’s counseling center and leadership. If the counseling center doesn’t reflect the diversity of the campus, what policies are being engaged to hire and retain racially diverse staff? Mental health is essential for academic success and it’s critical that the support is applicable to those most minoritized.

Malcolm Pradia

West Springfield

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