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Finding support on campus through CAPS

by Jazzminn Morecraft

Counseling and Psychological Services, most commonly known as CAPS, is an area on campus that can provide support for students. “CAPS provides short-term counseling, which is focused on identifying solutions to immediate problems,” said Toni DeBoni, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

CAPS follow the International Accreditation of Counseling Services guidelines when it comes to the ratio of professional staff members to students. On their website the International Accreditation of Counseling Services states, “The staffing necessary for the effective operation of a counseling service depends, to a large degree, on the size and nature of the institution and the extent to which other mental health services are available on and off-campus … Every effort should be made to maintain minimum staffing ratios in the range of one (full-time equivalent) professional staff member (excluding trainees) for every 1,000-1,500 students, depending on services offered and other campus mental health agencies.”

With regards to CI, it means that CAPS is staying within the limit of what the International Accreditation of Counseling Services pushes. “When fully staffed, CAPS has six full-time licensed clinicians,” said DeBoni. “Therefore, with our current student body of approximately 7,000, we have a ratio of approximately 1:1,200, clinicians to students.”

Yet, only 11% of the student population at CI take advantage of this resource, which is around 770 students. There are students that end up trying to utilize CAPS, but end up still do not show up for their appointments. “The rate at which students do not attend their scheduled CAPS appointments fluctuates during the year. At a minimum, about 10% of students’ no-show for their appointments, or do not come nor call to cancel the appointments. However, a no-show rate of 15-20% is not uncommon,” said DeBoni. “The difficulty is, that means unless we are able to connect with students from a wait list, there were 29 missed opportunities for students to meet with a clinician.”

While this is not ideal, CAPS has taken several steps over the past five years to aid in helping students to remember to come to their appointments. They have sent students with appointment cards, sent emails and texted them, hoping that all these reminders would help close the gap of no-shows. While CI currently does not charge students a fee for missing appointments, it does happen at other universities. “CAPS continues to explore strategies and garner student feedback – we want it to be a shared response to the issue,” said DeBoni. “Perhaps the campus community can work together to help students better understand and appreciate the value of the CAPS appointment and the impact of missed appointments without proper advanced notification.”

Relationship problems, depression and anxiety are the top reasons students nationwide seek counseling. “Many students benefit from the opportunity to speak with a counselor a couple of times about their concerns so they can focus on their academic success. Other times, students are experiencing more severe difficulties and would benefit from longer-term counseling in the community,” said DeBoni. “If students are not sure whether CAPS can help them, we encourage them to meet with a clinician to discuss their concerns. The clinician will work with the student to develop an individualized recommendation for their well-being. Community referrals and options can be explored at that time. Students can also check with their health insurance company regarding community treatment options.”

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