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The goal of the program is to "meet students where they are," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said.

Credit: Cindy Chen

Penn's Counseling and Psychological Services rolled out a new program this week that brings brief counseling sessions to students. The initiative, called "Let's Talk," first began at Cornell under the direction of former CAPS Executive Director Gregory Eells, who died by suicide on Sept. 9. 

The Let's Talk model was one of the initiatives that Eells planned to bring to Penn, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said. After delays due to Eell's death, the program is being rolled out in his honor.

In the program, a CAPS counselor comes to several locations that students frequent for a few hours each day from Monday to Thursday. The counselor, staff psychologist Yacob Tekie, has been offering sessions at the LGBT Center, the ARCH building, Van Pelt Library, the Greenfield Intercultural Center, and the Graduate Student Center. Tekie plans to be at these locations for about 20 hours each week. 

The goal of the program is to "meet students where they are," Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said. 

The first day of the service began on Oct. 1, and Tekie said about five students have used the sessions so far. He added that all of these students were from marginalized groups traditionally less likely to seek counseling, as CAPS expected.

A Let's Talk consultation takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, Tekie added. Students will not be asked to complete an extensive questionnaire as they would on a drop-in visit at CAPS, said CAPS Associate Director of Outreach and Prevention Services Batsirai Bvunzawabaya.

The Let's Talk model has been adopted by nearly 100 universities and colleges nationwide, according to a Cornell webpage. An article on the efficacy of the Let's Talk service read that the Let's Talk model is designed to target students who are otherwise unlikely to seek counseling. The study cited racial minorities and international students as less likely to seek psychological help. 

The program comes as the Undergraduate Assembly has been pushing for an "embed system" to provide CAPS services in undergraduate schools. A CAPS clinician has been stationed at Huntsman Hall for Wharton students since November 2018. 

The Let's Talk program at Cornell employs 12 counselors, each at a different location from Mondays to Fridays. Dubé said Penn's program will expand based on student demand. 

Tekie specialized in working with marginalized, international, and immigrant students, according to his biography on the CAPS website. He earned his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Tennessee — Knoxville, and his biography cites his dedicated to social justice advocacy and human rights.

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