Making effective mental healthcare accessible to our neighbors

By Melissa Aase, CEO of University Settlement


Last year, 750+ of our neighbors received mental healthcare at our comprehensive clinic, the Consultation Center

Our clinicians employ psychotherapy with a strengths-based approach, empowering our neighbors to pursue their own goals

Appointments are available – learn more here or call (212) 453-4522

For many New Yorkers, mental healthcare is hard to find and harder to afford. NYC’s Office of Community Mental Health reports that this is especially true for people living in neighborhoods where poverty is prevalent.

Making effective, culturally responsive, affordable mental healthcare accessible to our neighbors is one of the most powerful ways we build stronger communities.

Last year, more than 750 people of all ages received treatment at University Settlement’s Consultation Center, our comprehensive mental healthcare clinic. Our highly trained staff employ psychotherapy with a strengths-based approach, creating a space where people can imagine the lives they wish to lead and build the skills that will get them closer to those goals.

One of our neighbors – we’ll call her Ruby – experiences significant social anxiety and agoraphobia that has sometimes prevented her from leaving her apartment. She told me that partnering with the Center’s clinical social worker Joy Liu has made a big difference in her life:

“Before I found the Consultation Center, I had three therapists, but this is the best clinic I’ve been to out of all of them. A neighbor in my building recommended Joy to me, and I’ve been working with her for three months.

We meet virtually, on my phone. For me, this is better than in-person therapy because I can stay home, feel safe, and talk without getting nervous.

In school, I was anxious spending a long time around a lot of people. That’s why I chose the GED program, to be around fewer people.

When I was really struggling to go outside at all, Joy referred me to a program that visited me at home for a few weeks, while we continued working on my long-term goals. After that, I started going outside on my own again.

Joy understands me more and communicates with me better than anyone before. What she says to me is different than other therapists. She doesn’t change the subject. Her advice opens my mind about different ways to help myself because she helps me see things from a different perspective. When you see other people living their lives and all that’s going on in the world you want to live your life to the fullest! If you are at home all the time you don’t get to experience new things.

With Joy, I talked about what made me feel uncomfortable outside and what made me feel better. I was worried about what people thought about me and I’m scared of offending people.

We do these breathing techniques, and practice focusing on the five senses. I’ll think about all that I can smell, hear, or see when I’m feeling anxious – If I do this before social situations, it helps me calm down.

I wasn’t confident in myself, but Joy helped me realize things about myself. She reminds me to practice self-care like cooking for myself or journaling. I’m still practicing. Now, whenever I go outside, I feel kind of uncomfortable but when I get home, I feel better because I realize I’ve achieved something by having a breath of nice, fresh air.”

If you or a loved one would benefit from partnering with the clinicians at the Consultation Center, please call us at (212) 453-4522. Additionally, New Yorkers experiencing mental health emergencies can reach out to 988 Lifeline Chat, including by texting 988 from their mobile devices.

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