Peer Contraceptive Counselors: Answering Your Most Intimate Questions

It may be housed in a doctor's office, but Peer Contraceptive Counselors (PCC) is a place for students to feel comfortable voicing their sexual concerns. The name itself is deceptive--rather than just a medicine chest stocked with condoms and other contraceptives, the PCC office is a place where students can talk privately about sexuality with peers trained to be experts.

Looking for Help the Next Day

Only 10 students a year serve on PCC, which is open from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Each counselor works one two-and-a-half hour shift per week. Their mission is to aid students who call or drop in with questions about sex.

We get a lot of informational questions," says PCC co-director Angela L. Peluse '01. "Like the condom broke, I forgot to take a [birth control] pill, I threw up a pill, what about emergency contraception, etc."

But in recent years, students have brought more serious concerns to PCC staffers. These days sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to birth control, are the chief concerns of sexually active college students, PCC members say.

"I think in terms of info, we get a lot more questions about STDS, Not AIDS, but the more prevalent ones, genital herpes and chlamydia," says Aisha M. Thompson '99, a former PCC director.


The student staff receives extensive training the week before school starts. But this does not always prepare them to answer in-depth of questions they about medical issues. In such situations, the group's location at University Health Services (UHS) comes in handy. PCC staff members maintain close ties and a familiarity with the hospital and doctors above its office.

"We can go to a doctor with questions we don't know," Peluse says. "We also have material in the office...but if we get stuck we can ask."

PCC functions as an advising group and a place where students can find answers. But the staff also reaches out, particularly to first-years, through informational programs about using birth control.

Thompson says outreaches are one of the most rewarding aspects of counseling. After outreaches, she adds, the number of calls and drop-ins to the PCC office increases.

In the past, all first-years were required to see a PCC presentation. It has been three years though since the College ended the mandatory outreach effort, PCC counselors say, and the group has had to learn how to market themselves and their services.

"We've done a great job of that," Thompson says. "We've seen increases in numbers of everything, phone calls, requests for outreach, etc."

PCC still gives presentations by request, which are popular among first-year proctors because of their straightforward and honest approach to sexual issues.

"They're very informative and at the same time entertaining," Nadja B. Gould, who is PCC's UHS supervisor, wrote in an e-mail message.

Knowing When to Be Quiet

Founded in 1977, PCC is the second-oldest peer counseling group, after Room 13, which was founded in 1970. Its staff members are selected for their ability to speak frankly about sexual issues and their listening skills.

Staff members are selected in an intensive yearly interview process in the spring semester. In interviews, potential counselors, role-play to show current PCC members how they would respond to calls.

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