The Daily Northwestern

CAPS outreach and education programs increased by 4.1 percent last year

Peter Kotecki, Assistant Campus Editor

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More than 10,500 Northwestern students, faculty and staff were reached through Counseling and Psychological Services’ outreach and education programs last year, representing a 4.1 percent increase from the 2013-2014 academic year, according to a report released by CAPS earlier this year.

Additionally, the number of NU students using CAPS’ clinical services increased by 11 percent during the 2014-2015 academic year, executive director John Dunkle said. The number of students using CAPS services previously increased by 22 percent during the 2013-2014 year.

The ratio of CAPS staffers to students is currently about 1 to 940, said Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs. Ivy League universities have a comparable ratio, while the minimum ratio for counseling services at universities is one staffer for every 1,000 to 1,500 students, according to the International Association of Counseling Services.

Although there is a 12-session limit for individual counseling sessions at CAPS, NU students attend an average of six to seven sessions, Telles-Irvin said.

“Some students … are concerned about the limit of 12 sessions — I can understand that — and that is something that we will look into for the future,” she said.

Telles-Irvin said CAPS is trying to ensure students get help if they are in a crisis. CAPS also educates students, faculty and staff through its Question-Persuade-Refer Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training Program, she added.

“What they are trying to do is bring these issues to everyone’s awareness,” Telles-Irvin said.

CAPS saw one of its biggest increases in attendance within the Stress Management Clinic, with 24.2 percent more people attending last year than during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Stress Management Clinic coordinator Henry Perkins said the clinic includes workshops on mindfulness, success strategies, and relaxation and biofeedback. Workshops are held for an hour each week, with two four-week cycles offered each quarter, Perkins said.

“These workshops are designed to provide Northwestern students with information about stress, stress management and to teach specific stress management skills,” he said. “We have had a really good and positive response, especially to the mindfulness workshops over the past couple of years.”

Perkins said the programs at the Stress Management Clinic are free and unlimited for NU students. The workshops have become an easy way for students to access CAPS services, he added.

“Students don’t have to go through CAPS to register for any of the workshops — they register online — so it doesn’t involve any kind of elaborate registration process,” Perkins said.

Courtney Albinson, associate director for outreach and education at CAPS, said student feedback about CAPS programs has been very positive.

“We’ve developed these programs intentionally based on what we see students need,” she said. “That’s why we have a really extensive stress management clinic with a number of different workshops that are offered as a part of the clinic. Students find those very beneficial.”

According to the CAPS report, the biggest drops in attendance between the 2013-2014 year and last year were in the Peak Performance Training and counseling and helping skills programs, with 73.2 and 58.4 percent decreases respectively.

Albinson, however, said the Peak Performance Training workshop is often well-attended.

“That’s a workshop where we’ve designed that because Northwestern students are performing and achieving and they’re working really hard, and so that workshop provides the skills and strategies for them to enhance their performance,” Albinson said.

She added that CAPS offers many workshops each quarter that address students’ mental health.

“An overall wish that we have is for students to be taking care of themselves, to really be prioritizing their mental health and wellness,” Albinson said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the percentage by which CAPS services increased. CAPS’ outreach and education programs increased by 4.1 percent, while its clinical services increased by 11 percent. The Daily regrets the error.


Twitter: @peterkotecki