CAPS is part of Brown University Health & Wellness. Our peer offices are Health Services, BWell, Brown EMS, and Student Accessibility Services, and all five offices report to the Executive Director of Health & Wellness. We are part of the larger Division of Campus Life & Students Services.
The mission of Counseling & Psychological Services is to assist students with completion of their academic program, engagement in their social and extracurricular activities, and development of optimal wellbeing. We accomplish this by offering a range of support and prevention services in an inclusive, compassionate, affirming, and socially just environment.
Mental health services on campus began with the hiring of a mental health consultant in 1961 through Health Services. Dr. Ferdinand Jones, a psychologist, was hired in 1972 on a part-time basis to begin direct mental health sevices. In 1983, Dr Jones was appointed as the first director of "Psychological Services", and the office was established as an indepenedent operation.
Dr Belinda Johnson become the next director in 1992. During her tenure, the office began to see a significant increase in demand for services, and several major changes, including moving Psych Sevices from Rhode Island Hall into J Walter Wilson Hall (now Page-Robinson Hall).
Dr Sherri Nelson began as director in 2013. During this period, and for the interim directors that followed, there was a continued growth in demand on the office, with more providers being hired, the changing of the office name to Counseling & Psychological Sevices (CAPS), and ultimately the need for a shift in how care was provided on campus.
Dr Will Meek started in 2017. Several large changes to the clinical system were made to provide faster access to care, and options for many more students receive all of their mental health services on campus. CAPS also became a more multiculturally compenent and diverse office.
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism
Racism is undoubtedly the most insidious and principal threat to the well-being and survival of people of the global majority (people of color). This disorder of society is systemic and is manifested throughout our institutions, communities, and even in our own psyches. Anti-racism work is inherently intertwined in healing trauma, social justice efforts, and building community. At CAPS, we are committed to undoing racism in its various forms, whether this is systemic, interpersonal, or internalized. That being said, we recognize that given the gravity of this issue, we must do more and our current work is not enough. We acknowledge this and are humbly committed to the process of examining the continued development of our anti-racist work through ongoing reflection and departmental growth.
Anti-racism work is, out of necessity, work that is communal and advocates for the needs of those who have historically been oppressed. The trauma of racism for people of color ranges from microaggressions, to being pressured to assimilate, to the very real threat of losing one’s life. In a community such as Brown, there is the need for continued examination of the impacts of slavery and racial injustices (e.g., Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, 2006). Healing cannot occur in our community without addressing the present and generational trauma of racism.
As a center, we advance the following commitments and values to transform our work and to hold a mirror to the healing practices we undertake. First and foremost, we are committed to engaging in our community, which we have been tasked to serve. It is not enough for CAPS to solely exist as an office; we must also be part of the community and advocate alongside one another when issues of social justice and anti-racism arise (i.e., Brown Center for Students of Color, 2020).
Next, we as staff will continue to engage in work related to fostering our cultural competencies. This involves ongoing training that promotes specific skills targeted at dismantling racism, examination of our inherent biases, and soliciting feedback from our clients regarding areas of growth (e.g., Alleyne, 2011; Hook et al., 2017). Training related to introductory topics of diversity and equity are not enough. We must promote our cultural competencies via anti-racist trainings, fostering allyship for white therapists, and empowering therapists of color.
CAPS is furthermore committed to engaging in anti-racism work by questioning the Eurocentric assumptions embedded in psychotherapy and psychological theories. We will seek to culturally adapt our interventions to align with diverse worldviews, understanding that treatments are most effective when they consider culture, race, and other intersecting identities (Barrera, et al., 2017; Smith & Trimble, 2016; Soto et al., 2018).
As a staff, we seek to understand the pain and trauma experienced by racism, knowing that we will never fully grasp it unless we have experienced it ourselves. We are and will always be fully committed to anti-racism work in our practices, values, and support for our community. We also acknowledge that privilege engenders biases and other limitations. We have the privilege of selective attention to struggles within our community and we are committed to doing better. If you have any suggestions for how we can improve our anti-racist framework, or if you are struggling with these issues and want to talk through this with us, please contact us and help us grow together.
Alleyne, A. (2011). Overcoming racism, discrimination and oppression in psychotherapy. The handbook of transcultural counselling and psychotherapy, 117. McGraw-Hill Education.
Barrera, M., Berkel, C., & Castro, F. G. (2017). Directions for the advancement of culturally adapted preventive interventions: Local adaptations, engagement, and sustainability. Prevention Science, 18(6), 640-648.
Brown Center for Students of Color (2020). A Note of Solidarity and Support. Retrieved from https://mailchi.mp/cd0387c7198e/a-note-of-solidarity-and-support?e=efa4767a35
Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery & Justice (2006). Slavery and Justice. Retrieved from http://brown.edu/Research/Slavery_Justice/documents/SlaveryAndJustice.pdf
Hook, J. N., Davis, D., Owen, J., & DeBlaere, C. (2017). Cultural humility: Engaging diverse identities in therapy. American Psychological Association.
Smith, T. B., & Trimble, J. E. (2016). Foundations of multicultural psychology: Research to inform effective practice. American Psychological Association.
Soto, A., Smith, T. B., Griner, D., Domenech Rodríguez, M., & Bernal, G. (2018). Cultural adaptations and therapist multicultural competence: Two meta‐analytic reviews. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74(11), 1907-1923.
CAPS Commitment of Support for Trans and Gender Diverse Students
As staff of CAPS and members of the Brown community, we value, affirm, and celebrate the spectrum of intersecting identities and lived experiences of all students. We firmly stand behind and fully echo the recent statement of values and support by the Brown LGBTQ Center.
As we enter a new school year, the LGBTQ Center at Brown University wants to assert our values and make a clear statement about how we support trans, nonbinary, and questioning community members on campus. Recently, a research study that has been subject to significant criticism within the scientific community regarding its methodology has made headlines. As a consequence, news of the study has emboldened bigoted and discriminatory attitudes that have real-life consequences for members of our own community, especially trans youth. This has been harmful and dehumanizing to our students as well as staff and faculty.
The LGBTQ Center supports Brown's core academic mission by contributing to intellectual discourses related to its mission as well as ensuring equitable access to educational opportunities. We want to reaffirm that the LGBTQ Center and our colleagues are committed to supporting trans, nonbinary, and questioning students, staff, and faculty using best practices to provide the highest quality, trans-affirming advocacy and support. We partner with Brown Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and University Health Services to collectively provide access, without undue barriers, to medical resources on and off-campus. Brown University health insurance provides trans-inclusive coverage for therapy, hormones, and gender affirmation surgeries for students, staff, and faculty. We have worked hard to create a range of support systems across campus and we are committed, fully, to creating a community where trans, nonbinary, and questioning students, staff, and faculty are able to be their complete selves free of harassment and discrimination. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the staff at the LGBTQ Center to learn more about all of the support resources available to members of the Brown community.