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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Revisiting counseling restrictions

How the 40-session limit set by CAPS is operating two years later

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is operating efficiently and without a waitlist two years after restructuring their counseling session model.

In the fall of 2014, CAPS was evaluated by a group of consultants who determined that a session limit needed to be put in place.

Before fall 2014, students were able to access the services of CAPS as frequently as they wanted, taking advantage of as many group and individual counseling sessions as they thought necessary. But issues arose as the student population grew and CAPS began to develop a waitlist.

According to Beverly Cutler, Ph.D., associate director of CAPS, the staff was worried that they wouldn’t be able to service students in an immediate crisis due to this waitlist. Therefore, the CAPS staff decided to limit students to 40 counseling sessions over the course of their four years at Saint Joseph’s University.

Greg Nicholls, Ph.D., director of CAPS, explained that it is typical for counseling centers to have a limit of some kind. Various limit models were examined when the 2014 decision was made, including one in which students would be limited to 10 to 12 sessions per year. Ultimately, however, the maximum of 40 sessions was decided upon.

Mary Elaine-Perry, Ph.D., Title IX co- ordinator, explained that the staff was look- ing to bring the model back to a short-term structure and also serve more students. She said that what the center wanted to avoid was students over-using the services when they may not actually need them.

“They don’t want someone who says, ‘Well I got a therapist now and I’m going to see them every week for the next four years,’ because then the student who comes in as a freshman, we don’t have an appointment for you because somebody is coming in and doing long-term therapy,” Perry said. “It’s to service students who have needs particularly in the moment, and if a student comes in all disheveled and we can’t see them right away it can be harmful to them…[but] if we can get them in…in four or five sessions they’re fine.”

Perry also explained that the 40-session limit is more flexible and accommodating, as some students may be facing a specific ordeal during a certain time.

“Somebody might have a crisis [and] they could potentially use up 40 sessions in a year…or they could use up 15 sessions one year and four another,” Perry said.

When asked what would happen if a student exceeded their 40-session limit, Cutler explained that if the student is still really going through a crisis, the staff at CAPS will make exceptions.

Esteban Valencia, ’16, utilized the ser- vices at CAPS over two prolonged periods in his college career. When asked his thoughts on the session limit, he explained that he is currently not concerned, because he is a graduating senior. However, he has friends who are apprehensive about start- ing counseling because they are afraid they will quickly use up all 40 sessions.

“I think conceptually [the cap] makes sense…so from an organizational standpoint I think that is a solution…but, there might be this compromise between having a waitlist and perhaps having fewer students take advantage of services for fear of using up [sessions],” Valencia said.

He also pointed out that some students who need further counseling may not feel comfortable speaking with family members about needing therapy or may not be able to individually afford it.

If a student reaches their 40-session limit and still needs counseling, Nicholls explained that the staff at CAPS will assist them in finding external forms of therapy if necessary. However, if for some reason a student cannot afford to access outside counseling, services at CAPS will still be available to them.

“Any student in crisis is not going to be cut off from our services, ” said Cutler, who also explained that there are still many other counseling options available through CAPS for students who have exceeded their limit, including walk-in hours, group sessions, and a 24-hour call line.

Tuduetso Masire, ’16, who has also used the services of CAPS during her time at St. Joe’s, said she sees the rationality of limiting the service, since technically it is something that is free for students.

“Doctors don’t come cheap, so for it to be free of charge is great,” Masire said. “However, we go to a private school so these things should be the perks of it, so my answer to that is that I see both sides of the story but if I had to pick a side I would say I disagree with [the limit].”

Dan McDevitt, director of the Office of Student Success, works primarily with students who are facing day-to-day obstacles, and oftentimes he will refer students to CAPS. When asked his own thoughts on the limit, he explained that primarily, it is a capacity issue that unfortunately must be dealt with.

“I think it’s one of those necessary evils…the number of students needing treatment is going up,” McDevitt said. “…I think that we don’t want to be one of the universities where if a student needs help they don’t get it for three weeks because everybody is booked; I think that’s also part of why they do it, so that we are taking care of everybody.”

When asked if expanding the num- ber of staff members at CAPS would help, Nicholls explained that adding more staff will just bring in more students, and in turn, could bring back a waitlist.

Since the session limit has been put in place, CAPS has been able to avoid a wait- list, said Nicholls. With the new system in place, the center is able to see every person that calls in either that same day or the next.

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