CAPS hiring additional staff, mulling adjustment of 12-session cap

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

Counseling and Psychological Services is in the midst of discussions on modifying its 12-session limit while also working to fill four counselor positions, CAPS director John Dunkle said.

During Fall Quarter, CAPS formed search committees for two previously existing and two new counselor positions. A task force of students and administrators was also convened last quarter to look into altering or eliminating CAPS’ counseling session limit, said Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs.

“We need to explore the benefits and examine the implications of removing the 12-session limit. It will change how we provide our services,” Telles-Irvin told The Daily. “We want to make sure we have the appropriate resources to manage the impact of such a change in practice.”

The task force, which includes Dean of Students Todd Adams, four students — one graduate and three undergraduate — and Dr. David Shor, CAPS’ director of clinical services, has been looking at data from NU’s peer institutions and at NU’s own counseling needs to create recommendations for session limits moving forward, Dunkle said.

The limit, which Dunkle said has been in place since 1995, caps students’ individual counseling sessions at 12. Dunkle said the session limit has been a consistent source of criticism for CAPS, with some suggesting that the cap is a barrier for some students to seek out services because they are concerned they will not be able to get the long-term care they need.

Associated Student Government president Noah Star said he’s glad CAPS is considering removing the limit, as it’s a concern that has come up repeatedly in ASG surveys about mental health on campus.

“Students sometimes see that 12-session limit as a deterrent to getting services,” Star said. “It isn’t an actual deterrent — services will be provided for you if you need it — but students feel like they should ‘save up’ their sessions.”

However, Dunkle said meeting students’ needs must be balanced with what CAPS is capable of.

“The hope is to offer the most optimal services for students given our resources,” Dunkle said. “We need to make sure the limits we have are commensurate with our resources.”

CAPS is also searching for counselors to fill two newly funded positions, Dunkle said. One will serve as a coordinator for peer services such as NU Listens and the second staff member will provide specific outreach and programming to black students. The new counselors will also provide general counseling services but will focus specifically on programming and outreach in those specific areas, Dunkle added.

The list of demands posted on Nov. 27 by Black Lives Matter and later sent to University President Morton Schapiro includes a provision for funding to be allocated to hire people of color to CAPS’ staff.

The number of students using CAPS has increased by 34 percent since the 2010-2011 school year, according to the 2015 Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience released earlier this month.

“We want to make sure we’re meeting as much of the need as we can,” Dunkle said.

Additionally, CAPS is hiring people to fill two existing positions that are currently vacant — one sports psychologist, a position Dunkle said has been open since June, and one psychologist for the Chicago Campus’s CAPS office who will act as a liaison to the Pritzker School of Law.

Dunkle said his hope is that CAPS can fill the positions as soon as possible, adding that they will likely be filled by mid-spring or summer.

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