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Nov 27, 2019 07:54 AM EST

Universities Adopt Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to Reduce Sad and Suicidal Students

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As universities continue to portray counseling separately from other health services, more schools are adopting the program called CAPS, which is the acronym for "Counseling and Psychological Services".

Colleges and universities use the blanket term to describe short-term mental and behavioral health services that often include skill-building and wellness workshops, individual counseling, psychiatric support, and group counseling.

Although most colleges do not have organized, approved CAPS services, almost all provide a clinician on-site with some sort of counseling service.

The International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS) accredits most CAPS programs and campus counseling centers, providing a framework and standards for programs to understand, implement and are held accountable for best practices for mental health services on college campuses.

For example, IACS guidelines recommend that for every 1,000-1,500 students, CAPS services should provide one qualified counseling therapist. CAPS counselors often have a graduate degree and may be licensed even though accreditation is not required.

In 2018, the 2018 Annual Survey of the American College Health Association found that 60% of students had weakening anxiety, 40% of students were too depressed to go to class or hang with friends, and 55% felt hopeless in the last year.

Every year, nearly 20% considered suicide and around 1,100 committed suicides. Through campus counseling services, only 10 to 15% of these students get professional help.

Although a small percentage of students end up seeking help when they struggle, CAPS programs should be one of the first places students go to. The most common way in which students seek help is typically to their parents first. But these parents will end up calling the school, friends, and local professionals frenziedly due to panic.

A clinician will often conduct an intake assessment once a student enters the counseling center to determine the safety risks and what type of intervention is needed.

If a student has a more chronic problem, such as major depressive disorder or an eating disorder, they are often referred to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Since time is limited, clinicians will often be very goal-oriented in counseling programs with a focus on symptom reduction.

Most CAPS are conveniently placed in or near health centers on campus and are highly accessible to most students. CAPS staffs often live in the same community as the university and at least have a basic idea of what's going on around the campus.

After the first few sessions that are usually free of charge, most CAPS are either included in student fees or offered at a reduced fee. Nearly all CAPS accept insurance charging as well.

Although CAPS programs may almost always be underfunded, any CAPS clinician will not speak about more billable hours the same way community-based clinicians won't. Since their funding is often a big chunk of money from a large university pot, there is no profit motive.

College is overwhelming and stressful, but your son or daughter will thrive with early intervention and help from compassionate college professionals such as those found in CAPS of any campus. Mental health issues are increasing, and definitely, college students need counseling when they are struggling academically or socially.

Check out this list of IACS accredited universities that offer CAPS. Click here.

RELATED: Need Psychological Counseling: College And University Students Has Mental Health Concerns 

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