Let’s Talk Program advocates for pressure free counseling

Annie Cassutt

The Student Counseling Center started the Let’s Talk program, where individuals on campus can come to the counseling office for a less formal counseling session. It is meant to encourage students to go find out more information about counseling, whether it be for them or someone they know.

Journalist Hari Sreenivasan said that rates of anxiety and depression among college students in the U.S. have soared in the past decade.

Let’s Talk began at Iowa State in the spring of 2016 when Dr. Ian Nelson-Johnson — who supervises Let’s Talk — heard about the idea from a mentor while in graduate school.

“He had run it at the University of Chicago and had really positive things to say about it in terms of raising access for services, reducing some barriers for services related to mental health. So I thought it would be awesome to potentially bring a service like that to Iowa State,” Nelson-Johnson said.

There are four other staff members who work with the Let’s Talk program: Elizabeth Tenbrook, Haley Strass, Stacy Ko and Meg White. Tenbrook has been on staff since the program’s beginning.

“I have kind of been linked to it ever since because Ian [Nelson-Johnson] graduated after his internship, so then it was a matter of seeing who else wants to be involved,” Tenbrook said.

Each staff member has their own interpretation of what Let’s Talk is. Ko believes that it is a chance for people who have a bad image of counseling in their mind to see that counseling is not as bad as they think

“I see it as an opportunity to provide a healing experience for someone who has had some of those doubts or who has had bad experiences with [counseling],” Ko said.

Strass has done research about the stigma of counseling, and Ko thinks Let’s Talk helps diminish the stigma.

“I see one main part of Let’s Talk is being that stigma reduction and getting people essentially in the door to possibly take that next step of counseling,” Strass said. “I also see it personally as a place where people can get information about resources.”

Often times students fail to get counseling because they simply are not aware what resources are available to them on campus.

“I viewed it as a very informal conversation with someone who has questions or needs support for something they are struggling with and maybe doesn’t necessarily have the answers of those questions from other people,” Tenbrook said.  

The staff has found that sometimes people are turned off by the idea of an actual counseling session, and that is another reason they believe Let’s Talk is such an important program.

“I think another thing that’s important for me to honor is that sometimes a Let’s Talk session could really help a student problem solve in a way that they may not even need to come into the counseling center,” Nelson-Johnson said.

The Let’s Talk program is not just for students on campus, but for anyone who wants more information about counseling and resources on campus.