The Counseling Center’s Website Needs Immediate Improvement

I was poking around for cheap therapy options. This was a big step. Since, like many students, I don’t have in-state insurance, a car, or a trust fund, private practice is out of my budget. I really have one option. I searched “Oberlin College Counseling,” expecting zen web design and an appointment schedule. Instead, I felt excluded, disheartened, and put off. The website should be taken down immediately and rewritten.

What it should be:

Inviting and reassuring, with a simple link for making an appointment.

What it was like for me:


I clicked the tab marked “Sexual Abuse.” It starts with a narrow definition of what qualifies as sexual abuse. Because I was an adult when the abuse started, my experiences didn’t make the cut. Sex abuse only happens to children and adolescents? I didn’t know they wanted me to understand my abuse as sexual assault. Assault seems like a word for an action rather than an ongoing relationship. Was there no tab for me? As I read their definitions of abuse, I felt an urge to close my laptop; the language was anatomically specific and violent.

Why did they bother defining any of it? When someone wants therapy, can’t they make an appointment without diagnoses for what’s bugging them?

I went to the Counseling Center for help. If I was confused about the definition of sexual abuse, I’d go to Google.


I read on. Apparently sex abuse means you will absolutely need exhausting and expensive, long-term therapy — YEARS of therapy. Oberlin’s Counseling is presented as a brief way to “shore up.” Not comforting.


To be fair, they do list another option for survivors — we can read a book! “Bibliotherapy is a place many people start, and The Courage to Heal and The Courage to Heal Workbook are commonly used first books.” Yikes. I knew the sordid history of this book. Why didn’t they? The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is an infamous and widely discredited self-help book written by a poet — not a therapist — 30 years ago.

“The book has been criticized for being used primarily by incompetent therapists,” says Wikipedia. It’s a shame that the same author who didn’t realize I had access to Google didn’t know about Wikipedia. Could’ve saved them the embarrassment.

The problems aren’t isolated to the “Sexual Abuse” tab. Each “Specific Issues” page also needs to be rewritten.


Presenting rigid, pathologizing, or unsubstantiated definitions as norms was a pattern.


Resources were sparse and well … weird. The “Sexual Abuse” page lists “Resources” but it is only one website “designed to assist and empower men.” This odd resource simultaneously relegates men to an afterthought and fails to address the existence of gender diversity. Also, all of us could use more than one resource and a 30-year-old book. Thankfully, we have options!

– Uncallable crisis lines

– Unnamed area coordinators, who are presented as the ideal suicide prevention squad

– Lots of religious (Christian) resources. Weird!


The best page by far is “Bipolar Disorder.” Sadly, this is because it is a copy-pasted six-sentence blurb from the National Institute of Mental Health website.


Under “Self Inflicted Violence,” the Counseling Center explicitly enumerates 10 ways to self-harm. Isn’t this irresponsible and potentially dangerous? But that would only be for people who bother to read the website, and I think they have made sure very few people do.

Making a better website shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s mostly about cutting pages. And to the Counseling Center — Hi! Competence and Wikipedia are at the top of my résumé. Shoot me an email. I’d be happy to help.