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An Interview with the BRC's CAPS Liaison Danielle Simien 

UC San Diego’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is demonstrating its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion by providing identity-based mental health care. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Danielle Simien joined CAPS with the goal of providing culturally responsive mental health services to underrepresented students. She is the CAPS liaison to the Black Resource Center (BRC) and the PATHS Scholars Program. She has experience serving youth, families, and adults in school-based, inpatient, outpatient, and integrated behavioral health settings. She holds a Master’s in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley and Bachelor’s in Psychology from Gonzaga University.

Simien’s dedication to creating a culturally responsive and inclusive space for the Black community at UC San Diego reflects the BAEI core value Ujima, or community. Read the interview below to learn more about her efforts to bring the Triton community together to honor the needs of Black students on campus:


What drew you to UC San Diego and your role as the CAPS Liaison to the BRC?

Prior to joining UC San Diego, I was working at Kaiser in the Bay Area. When George Floyd happened, that really mobilized me and motivated me to create a space for our Black patients. I organized Black therapists to create a Black mental health team that included two components: consultation and programming. That way, Black therapists could support each other in the work and we could provide culturally responsive care to patients. I was already doing that work when I got the opportunity to be the BRC Liaison–to intervene earlier in people’s lives, when they’re in college. I was interested in working with college students because I was reflecting on my own college experience where not a whole lot of people looked like me. I was usually the only Black person in class and I struggled with my mental health at that time. Mental health services were not easily accessible, and there wasn’t anyone who looked like me in the counseling program. I became the BRC Liaison because I wanted to be the person I needed when I was in college.

How does your work as liaison to the BRC help support Black students at UC San Diego?

If there is a student who is being served at the BRC in some capacity, and the staff notices mental health concerns, or if the student expresses mental health concerns, they can reach out to me directly. Another aspect is if there has been a critical incident, like last year with the Derek Chauvin trial, I can hold healing spaces for Black students. We also have other programming including Black Connections, which is a support group for Black students. It’s an informal space for Black folks to come together to feel safe, seen, heard, and validated. We also have a forum specifically for Black graduate and professional students, facilitated by Haile Wright. My role is to create programming for Black students as a community and to serve Black students individually. I have Community Initial Evaluations, which means my initial appointments are reserved for Black students–they get first priority. If those aren’t filled in a week, then they open up to first-generation students, and then they open to the general population. We really wanted to prioritize culturally responsive care so that if Black students reach out, they can match with a Black therapist. 

"I became the BRC Liaison because I wanted to be the person I needed when I was in college."

What are some of the benefits of culturally responsive and identity-based mental health care?

One of the main benefits is that the therapist “gets” you. Some experiences are hard to explain, and there are some experiences in life you have to go through in order to “get” them. I think one of those experiences is being a Black person in America. Our positionality is very unique, and our history is very unique–from how we came here to how we are treated historically and currently. You can read about it and hear about it, but experiencing it is very different. When you can share that experience with someone else, they can understand a lot that you don’t say. They can empathize with you more because they have been in your shoes before. It leads to a deeper understanding, a deeper connection, and trust. But a provider doesn’t have to be Black in order to help a Black person. Some people might be scared to approach the topic if someone is from a different race or background, but you don’t have to be a member of that group to help. We can all help each other in different capacities–the help is just going to look a little different. It’s important to realize that this is a collective effort that's going to involve everybody. It involves everyone to create a more inclusive academic and learning environment for our Black students to help them feel comfortable, safe, and valued, and create a sense of belonging.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at UC San Diego?

My favorite part is working at the BRC. It allows me the opportunity to be in community, and to serve my community. That is really important for my own wellbeing, and for the wellbeing of our students. I’m grateful and proud to be in a position to be able to help my community. Community building and community care are very important to me. When I pour into my students, they get to pour into their friends. I can essentially be a social change agent in my position. I’m also modeling–I’m showing Black students that it is possible to be a Black professional. It is possible to give back to your community. It is possible to succeed despite all of the barriers. It makes me feel fulfilled, it makes me feel empowered, and it gives me hope. As a therapist, you get to see the most vulnerable parts of someone that they don’t share with anybody. I respect that, and I uphold that with a lot of importance. Being in a position that truly allows me to center the Black student experience is what I like most.


CAPS Resources:

If you would like to make an appointment to see a CAPS counselor or learn more about the services they offer, call 858-534-3755 or visit their website

 If you would like to join Simien's Black Connections forum:

Black Connections meets on odd Tuesdays from 12–1:30pm (1/10, 1/24, 2/7, 2/21, 3/7)

Black Connections is a safe space to connect and heal with community. Discussion topics are determined by forum participants and can include social justice issues, racial trauma, stress, anxiety, family/cultural pressures, and adjusting to UC San Diego. The goal is to uplift and support one another with collective problem solving and discussion. Danielle is dedicated to creating a culturally responsive and inclusive space for the UC San Diego Black Community. This forum is co-sponsored by the Black Resource Center and open to Black-identified students, staff, and faculty. Black Connections will be hybrid (in-person at BRC and virtual on zoom) until further notice. Please check the BRC website or contact Danielle Simien for details at