Middlebury hires counseling director who claims 'whiteness' is the cause of 'psychic suffering'

A liberal arts college in Vermont is hiring a psychologist that blames “whiteness”, among other things, for mental health problems.

Alberto Soto will serve as Middlebury’s Director of Counseling.

Soto told the college newspaper that he wants to move mental health policy at the college in a more progressive direction.

Last month, Middlebury College hired Alberto Soto to serve as its Director of Counseling. In an interview Soto told The Middlebury Campus that “source of all our psychic suffering,” are “whiteness, heteronormativity,” and “patriarchal systems”.

“The body and mind cannot be healed solely by self-care and focusing on surviving,” Soto told the student newspaper. “At some point we must address and identify the source of all our psychic suffering, which is whiteness, heteronormativity, patriarchal systems, etc.”

Soto earned his PhD in psychology at Brigham Young University, a conservative, Mormon institution. 

Soto cites a bad experience with a therapist in Idaho following the death of his brother as influencing the direction he hopes to move the college’s mental health services. He attributed the poor quality of care he received to a lack of cultural competence on part of his former therapist.

The article states that, following that incident, Soto now approaches counseling by focusing on the supposed connection between social justice and mental health.

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Soto will be in charge of overseeing counseling staff at Middlebury and responsible for designing policies related to addressing student mental health. Soto has stated that he wishes to employ a progressive approach and is excited to experiment with new forms of counseling, like the “Flexible Care Model.”

Researchers describe the Flexible Care Model as drawing on “common factors research, multicultural psychology, and urgent care medicine.” The Flexible Care Model is especially common at American universities.

According to the article published in The Middlebury Campus, Soto also wants to question Eurocentric ideas within mental health and wants to challenge whiteness within the campus community.

Despite his apparent focus on race and multiculturalism in his new positions, Soto's one hundred page long dissertation only contains passing mentions of the subjects.

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A number of articles have been published in Middlebury’s student paper detailing the difficulties its community faces with regards to mental health. In one survey the paper reported on, students cite mental health as their number one reason for missing class. A 2019 opinion piece was also posted criticizing Middlebury for how it handles mental health.

Nearly two-thirds of Middlebury’s students are white. Campus Reform asked the university if it believes Soto’s comments on “whiteness” could dissuade white students from seeking care. Campus Reform also asked Soto why he believes “whiteness” to be at the root of “psychic suffering”.

Neither Soto nor the college have returned Campus Reform's for comment.