Harvard University’s Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) works collaboratively with students and the University to support those experiencing some measure of distress in their lives. This academic year, CAMHS has significantly increased its resources by adding an expanded and modernized space on the fourth floor of the Smith Campus Center, expanding its staff 25 percent since spring, and launching several initiatives to serve students better no matter where they may be on campus.
The Gazette recently sat down with Paul Barreira, director of Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), and Barbara Lewis, chief of Counseling and Mental Health Services, to learn more about the design of the new space, as well as CAMHS’ budding community health model, which features opportunities to speak with counselors in novel settings, in-person and online.
Paul Barreira and Barbara Lewis
GAZETTE: Why was it important for CAMHS to have a new space?
BARREIRA: About three years ago when we made plans to close the Stillman Infirmary, we decided to reinvest money and resources in a space that would provide better, more critical services to a greater number of students. We focused this reinvestment on CAMHS specifically, and we’ve doubled the space available for individual and group therapy sessions, while also dramatically improving upon the size and feel of our waiting room area.
You can’t overemphasize the impact that our new waiting area conveys. When we thought about its design, we talked about having a wow factor, and I think we’ve captured that here. It’s a beautiful, large, comfortable waiting room with great views, and it’s just so different from what we had before, which was more of a closed-in space resembling a crowded bus stop.
LEWIS: There are two separate areas in the waiting room meant to facilitate more privacy for students, and we renovated the front desk area where students check in. There are now six accessible kiosks, all of which accommodate individuals with disabilities. We’ve also been able to add seven new offices and two small group rooms throughout the fourth floor of the Smith Campus Center Clinic. The CAMHS team has grown significantly over the past two years. We now feature over 50 clinicians, up from about 40 just this past spring, and these additional offices and group therapy rooms have been instrumental in our ability to accommodate our new colleagues, and the corresponding expanded services to the student body that they provide.