A service of support

CAPS offers individual and group counseling to help students through mental health problems

When third-year College student Susie Scott came to the University, she was anxious.

“I was thinking about taking time off [at] the beginning of the second semester of my first year because I was unsure if the University was the place for me,” Scott said.

After hearing about Counseling and Psychological Services through her resident advisor, she turned to the Student Health service to help her better make the transition from high school to college.

CAPS offers free consultation to serve the mental health needs of students. A majority of students enroll in the program through a phone appointment, during which a procedural screening process is conducted by a clinician to identify symptoms and determine what the most effective next step will be — whether through CAPS or another provider.

If the clinician decides CAPS is the right service, students then meet with a professional, who learns more about why a student has sought counseling and discusses specific courses of action to take from that point forward.

Scott has taken her positive experience from CAPS and channeled it through involvement with Active Minds, an organization aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and fostering an open dialogue about mental health issues on Grounds.

“It is heart-breaking that these issues go unaddressed and people are embarrassed,” Scott said. “My own experience at CAPS opened my eyes to the issues other students face here being in a new environment. This led me to seek out a new community at Active Minds.”

Counseling through CAPS can take several forms, including individual appointments and group sessions — the latter of which involves putting students among others working through similar issues. Groups include Eating Disorder Recovery, LGBT and Fridays Before Five — a weekly drop-in session specifically for international students.

Director of the CAPS Program, Dr. Tim Davis, said group counseling environment provides students an opportunity to discuss issues not only with a trained clinician, but also with fellow peers.

“Ages between 15 to 25 are a transition where students move away from the influence of their parents and to their peers,” Davis said. “Group counseling takes advantage of that because students are supporting each other. A student will say the same thing as a counselor and the other students often value it more than when it comes from the counselor.”

Another group counseling option includes Mindfulness, which uses a Buddhist and spiritual approach often considered clinically effective for depression and anxiety. CAPS also runs general process groups, for which there is no common underlying diagnostic factor.

Davis, who joined CAPS this past August, hopes to improve on the clinical strength of the program in addition to widening the demographic spectrum of students who utilize the program.

“We want to focus more on wellness and success,” Davis said. “Even if a student is not in clinical distress, we want to help them get the University experience they want and to be the best version of themselves.”

Published April 23, 2014 in Life

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