In an effort to make psychological counseling more accessible to students, Penn’s Student Health and Counseling Let’s Talk program has reopened in the ARCH building, following renovations.
The Let's Talk program is part of a larger initiative from University Life at Penn and Wellness at Penn to make campus resources more accessible to students through the ARCH. The building will also host Penn Violence Prevention workshops, academic support and disability services with the Weingarten Center, and Penn Career Services.
While counseling through Student Health and Counseling, formerly known as Counseling and Psychological Services, is located off-campus at 3624 Market Street, the ARCH is located in the center of Penn’s campus on Locust Walk.
In recent years, students have argued that the Market Street location, about a ten minute walk from campus, is a reminder of how mental health services are “noticeably disconnected from campus.” According to a 2021 editorial by The Daily Pennsylvanian, the lack of an on-campus central location for Student Health and Counseling has adversely affected students’ abilities to seek counseling.
Yacob Tekie, staff psychologist and program coordinator at SHAC, discussed the goals of the Let’s Talk program, which was started in 2019 with the goal of making counseling more accessible to Penn students.
“We designed the program to make it accessible in terms of the location, the resources, proximity, for our students. One of the reasons that we chose the ARCH is because it's a cultural center that houses a number of programs,” Tekie told the DP.
In September 2022, the ARCH building reopened after recent renovations to expand the presence of cultural centers previously housed in the basement of the building.
Tekie said while the cultural centers serve as a hub where people can gather, any Penn student, not just members of a cultural group, can receive the services of SHC mental health professionals.
William Atkins, the Associate Vice Provost for University Life, echoed Tekie, adding that the University is working to answer student wishes by adding more visible locations for campus resources.
“We will continue to have more campus partners involved in what’s happening in the ARCH and bring more resources into the ARCH so students can continue to access them in easier ways," Atkins said.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, two counselors, Derik Yager-Elorriaga and Miao Tian, offer counseling at the ARCH from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. They are fluent in Spanish and Mandarin, respectively. All counseling offered through the Let’s Talk program is confidential.
Penn Violence Prevention workshops will be offered Mondays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., academic support and disability services Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Penn Career Services Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., all in the ARCH building.
According to Tekie, an internal Penn Counseling survey showed that more than 97 percent of students were highly satisfied with the service, and more than 80 percent had never been to therapy before.
“The whole program was designed as an informal drop in session with a professional, highly trained psychologist. The policy is [an] open door policy,” said Tekie. “My number one recommendation for students is to come in, walk in, see how it is, [and see] what we have.”