UC Berkeley’s Tang Center offers variety of services to students

A wall with a sign that reads "University Health Services" leads to a building covered in glass walls.
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The Tang Center offers UC Berkeley students, faculty and staff a wide range of services — from psychological counseling to physical therapy.

The center provides psychological services such as short-term counseling for a wide variety of different needs, in addition to psychiatry services. The Tang Center also offers physical therapy, which includes rehabilitation for different types of injuries.

“The medical system is difficult to navigate, and it is especially so at a large institution such as UC Berkeley,” said Student Health Advisory Committee chair Mariah De Zuzuarregui, who is also a former news reporter at The Daily Californian, in an email. “While many students are heavily engaged with academic and extracurricular work, it is easy to neglect healthcare needs by putting it at the back-burner.”

Psychological counseling

The Tang Center offers short-term academic, career and personal counseling to all students, as well as psychiatry services.

“There is no charge to get started with counseling,” said Tang Center spokesperson Tami Cate in an email. “All registered students can access services regardless of their insurance plan.”

Many social services at the Tang Center help address challenges related to alcohol and drug use, chronic medical conditions and eating disorders.

The social services also assist pregnant students and include programs to address sexual health and sexual violence.

Campus freshman Kate Giebel said her experience with counseling at the Tang Center was positive, adding that she was “lucky” to have had a good therapist. Counseling was also very cheap and helpful, she said.

Zuzuarregui added, however, that students would benefit if the Tang Center allowed students to attend more than five counseling sessions before being referred to an off-campus provider.

Physical therapy

The Tang Center’s physical therapy unit is staffed by doctors who have different expertise, including sports medicine, ergonomics, manual therapy and hand therapy.

“The treatment philosophy stresses active patient participation through patient education and home exercise,” Cate said in the email. “This is of paramount importance for the success of the rehabilitation program.”

According to physical therapy manager and University Health Services, or UHS, interim specialty clinic manager Mary Popylisen, students who attend physical therapy at the Tang Center go in for many different types of injuries.

She added that the length of rehabilitation depends on the type and severity of the injury.

“We see a lot of very active students who have an overuse injury,” Popylisen said. “We also see a lot of students who are very sedentary because they are sitting too much. It runs the gamut.”

UC Berkeley freshman Neesha Chockalingam tore her ACL and sought physical therapy at the center. Although she later appreciated the rehabilitation she received, Chockalingam said the process of getting to the Tang Center was difficult.

Chockalingam said she called the center after she was injured to find out if it could provide her with crutches. She was told to walk to the Urgent Care Clinic at the Tang Center to get the crutches, but Chockalingam was unable to walk. Ultimately, her friends had to physically carry her to the center.

Although all UC Berkeley students have access to services at the Tang Center, the associated fees depend on a student’s insurance and the specific services they seek.

Students who have a Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP, can pay a $15 copay to see a physical therapist, while students without SHIP have to pay full price for the services they receive.

Other specialty services

Students who seek assistance from specialist physicians can access these specialists by referral from their UHS primary care clinician, according to Cate.

Specialty services include dermatology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, podiatry and sports medicine.

According to Cate, the financial implications of seeking these specialty services are very similar to those for physical therapy, and they are dependent on students’ insurance plans.

Academic assistance during rehabilitation

These services greatly depend on the students’ treatments and therapies, according to Cate.

Counselors of students with psychological counseling are able to facilitate accommodations with academic departments, given the consent of the student.

Zuzuarregui added that the Tang Center can better accommodate graduate students, especially as they may require different, more extensive medical needs that could involve dependents.

Chockalingam said that while she appreciates these services, she wishes students were not penalized for being late or for canceling an appointment within 24 hours.

In terms of physical therapy, the center’s aim is to help students return to their normal daily activities as soon as they can.

“Our big job is really to keep people studying and able to get around this campus and to be able to get through their day,” Popylisen said, adding that physical activities often aid students with stress management. “(It) helps them with school work and their social life.”

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.