Counseling Center offers students new open-dialogue service

By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer, Video by Tim Longoria | Broadcast Reporter

With topics surrounding deep divisional politics and an unprecedented global pandemic, Baylor’s Counseling Center has created a new service where students can freely and openly talk about their well-being.

The services, “Around the Table,” serves to discuss local, state and national and/or worldwide issues in an open and thoughtful space where students can share their feelings without fear of judgment.

By developing virtual private spaces for these discussions, students can easily and readily share their concerns with others about a topic that many may be struggling with as well. Because students will be speaking with BUCC staff, this exchange is considered private, though not confidential. As this service remains open to every Baylor student by a simple registration process, it is not considered therapy.

“While BUCC Staff will make every effort to maintain confidentiality, we need each participant’s help,” said the website. “In these process spaces there is an expectation that participants keep information about other attendees private.”

Drs. Brooke Hill-Allen and Esther Hooley along with Kathryn Lee, all three counselors at the center, worked together and saw a need for students to talk somewhere without any pressure. Understanding how students operate during the semester, it’s clear to see how social influences can impact one’s mental health. From this mindset, Hill-Allen explained how they wanted the conversations to be student-driven without any hovering expectations.

“It’s just that open invitation that there’s no right or wrong, there’s no good or bad we have zero expectations for what this space is going to be except for that we will be respectful and civil even if we disagree,” Hill-Allen said.

While security and privacy are important to these dialogues, the main reason as to why they’re not considered confidential is because this is not meant to be a therapy or counseling session. Hill-Allen stressed the importance of making the distinction as the key detail of counseling, such as confidentiality and a one-on-one relationship, is not a part of this service. However, within the meetings, privacy is important as a specific zoom link is given once students register.

There have already been two “Around the Table” meetings since its start, and they plan to hold another meeting next week. Students are meant to pop in or come and go as they please throughout the semester as they hold more discussions.

Having this space for open dialogue is meant to appease their processing of thoughts and emotions. To register for the next meeting, go to the Around the Table website.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that’s off-limits because I think anything that is impacting students is valid and we should explore it,” Hill-Allen said.