Harvard's Counseling and Mental Health Services has started offering same-day appointments for non-urgent cases, according to a social media post made by Student Mental Health Liaisons last week.
Under this initiative — a pilot program — students can book an appointment by calling the front desk beginning at 8:30 a.m. from Monday to Friday. Appointments are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
Unlike traditional CAMHS appointments, the new same-day appointments are set aside for students who are not already seeing a counselor at CAMHS or who would like help solving a problem in the moment, according to the CAMHS website.
Chief of CAMHS Barbara Lewis wrote in an emailed statement that the preparation took place over several months, and CAMHS is “thrilled” to offer same-day appointments.
“As demand substantially increases, we continually look for new, innovative ways to deliver quality services to our students,” Lewis wrote. “We recognize that many students want more direct engagement with counselors, oftentimes as a thought partner in problem-solving more immediate issues.”
The new program comes after criticism from students who have alleged that the mental health service imposed unreasonable wait times on Harvard affiliates who tried to see counselors. Before launching same-day appointments, CAMHS had tried to respond to these criticisms by creating Let’s Talk — an informal drop-in program with counselors around campus — and using iHope, an online therapy program.
CAMHS has also faced criticism for the size and makeup of its staff. Some students have lobbied for more counselors of color and providers from more socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. Over the past year, CAMHS has hired eight additional counselors, some of whom specialize in treatment for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Lewis wrote in an email that the new same-day bookings will serve different purposes than existing CAMHS appointments.
“Same day appointments are different from traditional appointments in that they are 30-minute standalone appointments for non-urgent matters,” Lewis wrote. “While there are no follow-up appointments, a student can return for same-day appointments in the future.”
If students are experiencing mental health emergencies, they will be referred to Urgent Care instead, according to the CAMHS website.
Student Mental Health Liaison Kathryn S. Boit ’22 said that while SMHLs did not take part in creating this project, it is part of their responsibility as SMHLs to spread awareness for resources.
“A lot of us are really happy to see that this is being implemented, but we had no part in creating this or reorganizing their staff for this,” she said. “It’s really just like our purpose as SMHLs is to educate — you know — and spread awareness for resources.”
Boit said she is excited to see how walk-in appointments work for students.
“I’m really excited to see how it goes,” Boit said. “This is being piloted for this semester and next semester so I’m hoping it has a good turnout.”
Lewis wrote that she hopes students can address their concerns during these same-day appointments.
“By the end of their same-day appointment, we hope the student feels they have had the opportunity to share and discuss any concern, acquires new problem-solving tools, and deepens their understanding of available resources both inside and outside of CAMHS,” she wrote.
—Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla
—Staff writer Tamar Sarig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @tamar_sarig.