Serving the Borough of Queens and Beyond: Yvette Caro Providing Help to People in Distress

America’s finest colleges and universities all have one thing in common: Besides providing an excellent education to their students, they are an invaluable resource to the families and businesses in their communities, offering many kinds of assistance and conducting research that benefits everyone.

At Queens College, service is in our DNA; our motto since we first opened our doors in October 1937 has been Discimus ut Serviamus (We learn so that we may serve). Gregory O’Mullan, Tarry Hum, and Yvette Caro  are just three examples of how our faculty are a strong force in the borough of Queens and beyond, from monitoring the health of the city’s waterways to counseling children and adults in psychological need.

FLUSHING, N.Y., June 21, 2013 — Manage depression, anxiety, and stress. Enhance self-esteem. Adjust to life’s disappointments. Help your child improve social skills. Notice the positive approach in each of those pathways to psychosocial coping, all of which converge at the Queens College Psychological Center in Razran Hall. From at-risk teens to victims of domestic violence, from adults with post-traumatic stress disorder to immigrant children with separation anxiety, patients “are here because the system has not been able to serve them,” observes Yvette Caro, the center’s founding director. Almost all are underinsured or have no insurance. These patients, as individuals, groups, families, and couples, find a mental health safety net at this nicely furnished, cheerful site.

“Many of our patients come from countries  where mental illness is very stigmatized,” Caro notes. A licensed clinical psychologist and doctoral faculty member of CUNY’s Graduate Center, she calms their fears about being called “crazy.” She reassures them that disorders like anxiety and depression are highly treatable, and that the clinic’s services are low cost or free.

QC’s psychology department and administration launched the clinic in 2010 to provide more professional training for doctoral students in the Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology Program and to enlist faculty expertise in addressing the needs of neighboring communities, especially in a borough with few mental health services for the disadvantaged. Since then, more than 200 patients have received treatment.

“When someone contacts us, we really try to connect them with services so they don’t fall through the cracks,” Caro emphasizes. “You can’t just treat the mental illness. Some of  our patients have so many other needs, from lack of food or day care to losing a home or a job with health benefits.”

Under close faculty supervision, six to eight third-year doctoral students rotate here to provide psychotherapy, counseling, and psychological testing. “My office is right by the waiting room—on purpose,” says Caro. “We work as a team to carefully screen patients and identify targets for treatment.” Bringing a deep knowledge of the brain to their sessions with patients, these graduate students engage in a wide range of research, including the emotional experience of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, cognitive training to increase executive functioning in older adults, and social skills for children with disruptive behavior disorders

“There are millions of  treatments out there,” Caro notes. “We try to make sure that any treatment we provide has evidence that it works,” and that it is sensitive to cultural backgrounds. “We want our psychology students to think about prevention as well,” so students reach out to at-risk populations through collaboration and consultation with schools and community organizations. For Family Day at the city’s Pomonok Houses across the street from the college, students staffed a mental health information booth.

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Contact: Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services