University Health Services offers affirming LGBTQ+ mental health resources

Photo of Tang Center
Gisselle Reyes/Staff
University Health Services’ Counseling and Psychological Services provides mental health resources for queer and transgender UC Berkeley students.

Related Posts

The mental health resources that UC Berkeley offers for queer and transgender, or QT, students can be found on the “Pride” page of the University Health Services, or UHS, website.

According to UHS Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, counselor Elizabeth Aranda, UC Berkeley is “really at the forefront” of LGBTQ+ mental health and wellness resources.

“(These resources) are available to all students, just like how they can access any UHS service,” said Em Huang, director of LGBTQ+ Advancement and Equity at the Gender Equity Resource Center, or GenEq. “They are free for all students. … there’s also a list of queer and trans-identified counselors that you can connect with.”

Eighteen LGBTQ+ counselors are highlighted on the UHS website as part of the CAPS team, each with their own specialties within the queer community. Aranda noted that the Transgender Care Team is particularly developed, even leading inter-UC campus meetings to discuss the uniquely effective aspects of the program, such as its gender-affirming services and medical advising.

Huang added that the CAPS team has made a full transition online. This includes online drop-in counseling sessions such as Q-Talk so that students can circumvent CAPS wait times.

“We are still doing online services,” Aranda said. “We offer queer-specific individual and group counseling, so for example, we have the queer men’s group, queer women’s group … groups for different identity variability.”

Aranda, who also acts as the wellness coordinator for the Multicultural Community Center, noted that she imbues an important intersectional lens into her work. Intersectionality can be embodied by “culturally competent” counselors that avoid making assumptions about people’s needs, Huang added.

In this way, counselors that are identity conscious and competent are better able to relate to the particular experiences and challenges of QT students, Huang said, especially if they are queer or trans themselves.

“Intersecting QT, BIPOC counselors and people in social services address different forms of wellbeing,” Huang said. “That’s really important to have folks that can connect to experiences that people are having, so people don’t just have to explain and explain.”

These resources are largely developed by campus groups with a “vested interest in the queer and trans communities;” the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the LGBTQ Communities at Cal is one body that brings these groups together, according to Huang, who also acts as the committee’s co-chair.

Huang noted that the committee is made up of students, faculty and ex officio members from other campus groups — including GenEq and UHS. This cross section of campus entities is then able to collaborate and communicate to the chancellor the needs of LGBTQ+ students from a variety of relevant perspectives.

“A mental health resource is not something that blankets everyone,” Huang said. “By being able to connect to the needs of the individual students and experiences, (the committee) speaks to those needs and creates connection points as we continue to address the stigma around mental health.”

The committee generates a yearly briefing for the chancellor, Huang added. This close contact with the chancellor’s office facilitates progress in supporting LGBTQ+ students, Huang said, as queer and trans-affirming practices are extended into all corners of campus.

Aranda observed a recent rise in diversity, equity and inclusion practices being woven into the general campus population. Disparate campus sectors have become more open to integrating queer-oriented curriculum and bolstering LGBTQ+ mental health, Aranda noted.

“We’re out there trying to spur a message, teaching and educating folks, hoping that they want to do their part at the end of the day,” Aranda said.

The expansion of reliable online mental health resources provides that connection to an affirming community, one that eases QT students’ access to necessary hormone treatments, mental health resources and other supportive services, Aranda said.

Students’ home environments may not be as accepting as campus, Aranda added, making the accessibility and consistency of campus’s QT mental health resources particularly important.

“Our existence is resistance,” Aranda said. “We really are trying to bump and increase and diversify options and access of resources by partnering with campus to really shift to a thriving mentality, where Pride isn’t just a month or day of the year, but something we all carry out.”

Contact Katherine Shok at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @katherineshok.