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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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A new approach

The+waiting+area+in+the+CAPS+office+in+Merion+Gardens+%28Photo+by+Rose+Barrett+%E2%80%9920%29.
The waiting area in the CAPS office in Merion Gardens (Photo by Rose Barrett ’20).

CAPS aims to focus on short-term treatment


St. Joe’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is changing its approach to counseling services in order to accommodate high demand and prevent a waitlist for services from forming.

The number of students seeking counseling services at CAPS continues to grow each year, said CAPS Director Gregory Nicholls, Ph.D. Last year, CAPS staff met with over 600 students.

The new approach will involve short-term counseling that is more problem-focused with an emphasis on transitioning out of weekly visits.

“The idea is rounds of therapy, courses of counseling, in a sense,” Nicholls said. “So, address the issue, have a student come in, four sessions, six sessions, eight sessions, maybe 10 sessions in a row, maybe take a bit of a time out, come back for another course of counseling.”

The goal is to help students feel as though they do not need to come in for a weekly meeting with a counselor, but rather to have students utilize group-therapy sessions or other CAPS resources in the space between rounds of therapy, Nicholls said. CAPS has added new group therapy sessions as well as meditation to the list of services it offers.

Nicholls said this new policy does not mean students cannot receive weekly counseling if that is what they need to feel their best. Rather, providing both counselors and students an alternative to weekly sessions helps CAPS accommodate the large number of students seeking its resources and the number of counselors who can assist them.

Josephine Shih, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, said from her perspective, the change is good.

“I especially appreciate the increased number of group therapy options and the issue-focused approach,” Shih said. “Group therapy can work just as well, if not be better, than individual therapy in some instances. For example, the group therapy format can help students feel less alone when they recognize that others are experiencing the same difficulty as them.”

One student who requested not to be named said she uses counseling services at CAPS but worries this new policy will put a timeline on people’s mental health care.

“The alarming part of therapy is recognizing that you have an issue that needs addressing and that’s without putting an abstract timeline on the situation,” the student said.

The hardest part about seeking help is reaching out, the student said.

“Knowing this policy as a student, it can put you in danger of ranking your needs over another’s or dismissing the mental issues you have before you have time to develop healthy outlets of coping,” she said.

Nicholls said that students will receive the care they need. CAPS is not reinstating the session limit that it removed during the summer of 2017 and students still have unlimited access to support through the program.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to be deterred from coming,” Nicholls said. “We are dedicated to providing every student with the support that they need.”

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