by Cassie Hedrick
College can be really hard. There are a lot of stressors, like class and homework, as well as dealing with everyday life and learning how to be an adult. If you’re dealing with mental illness, like I do, it can be even harder. Fortunately, UCF provides some help for that, through CAPS. I have gone to them since my freshman year to help deal with college life as well as my depression and anxiety.
What is CAPS?
CAPS stands for Counseling and Psychological Services. They provide counseling and therapy to UCF students. This can be a valuable resource for students, whether they are dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, or just the normal stressors of college life.
What services does CAPS provide?
CAPS provides individual and couples counseling, group therapy, and substance abuse counseling. In addition to appointment based services, they offer workshops and time with therapy animals. They also have walk-in appointments and a crisis line. Therapy Assisted Online (TAO) is offered as well, for learning coping strategies directly through a website. Plus, counseling services offered through CAPS are free to all currently enrolled UCF students.
What does individual counseling entail?
The individual counseling is used for short term treatment. First, you make an appointment for an initial screening. Then, you will be matched with a counselor. You can have bi-weekly appointments to sit down and talk with a counselor or, you can talk about what issues you’re dealing with and figure out how to best work with some coping and healing strategies. However, this is just for short term care, meaning a year or less, but if you need long term therapy, your counselor can help you connect with other providers in the area.
My time in individual therapy was really helpful. I liked my counselor a lot. She was a counselor in training and reported to an actual therapist, but she was still extremely helpful in venting about my problems and talking about ways to cope. It also helped me to open up about what was troubling me, especially with concerns I was just trying to bury.
What about couples/conjoint counseling?
For couples counseling, both people need to be UCF students. This counseling covers premarital, marital, divorce, and sexual adjustment counseling, But this is more than for couples. They also do conjoint counseling for friends, roommates, or other relationships. Like the individual counseling, there will be an initial assessment, then weekly or bi-weekly appointments.
What is group therapy like?
For group therapy, you need to be screened for each group. This means you sit down with the counselor designated for this group and discuss your goals, talk about why you feel that specific group is for you, and what you feel you can gain from the group. Groups start meeting at the beginning of every semester and meet for two hours every week. You will sit down with a group of 5 to 10 people who are dealing with similar issues as you and talk about where you are struggling and what can help. There will be a group facilitator there to guide the conversation, but other than that, it is just the people in the group who are doing the talking.
I was in a group last spring and it was life changing. I was able to meet other people dealing with issues similar to mine. This allowed me to pick up new ideas for self-care and helped me to feel less alone in my situation. As a result, I am still friends with the people in that group and we continue to talk to each other and give support.
What is TAO?
TAO stands for Therapy Assisted Online. This is a program you can use that can help you understand your mental illness, stress, or trauma. It uses modules that go through what mental illness is, makes you think about any triggers and how you deal with it, and gives strategies for coping and healing. It taught me a lot about the chemical and biological reasons for depression and the symptoms that it causes. Now I have a better understanding of what I am dealing with. I even learned that the reason I tend to talk slowly is because of the responses in my brain caused by depression. I think it is most beneficial when it’s paired with regular counseling, but it is also nice to have on days where you just feel kind of down or anxious, but not enough to be in a crisis.
If I don’t have time for weekly appointments, what other things do they offer?
CAPS offers workshops on a regular basis that incorporate different topics, like dealing with stress, mindfulness, or even making career decisions. You don’t need to sign up to attend, you can just show up to CAPS and sign in. They also have Bodhi, the therapy dog. You don’t need to sign up for that either. You can just go and play with an adorable puppy. In addition to that, they also have therapy cats come on occasion. These are helpful if you are just having a rough week and maybe don’t need weekly appointments or if you want to add to the counseling you are already having.
Can they give prescriptions?
Your counselor cannot prescribe medicine, however a psychiatrist at the Health Center on campus can. If you feel like medication would be beneficial, you can talk to your counselor and they can give you a referral to see a psychiatrist. From there, you just have to make an appointment and talk to the psychiatrist to get a proper evaluation for a prescription. I was able to ask my counselor for a referral and talk to a psychiatrist. It has been helpful in figuring out which medicines I should take and what other medical steps I can take to deal with my depression.
How can I contact them?
CAPS is located next to the Health Center, near the Libra housing community. You can walk in to make an appointment or call 407-823-2811. There hours are 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 8:00am to 5:00pm on Friday. They also have a 24/7 crisis line at their main number that you can call anytime from anywhere if you need to talk to a counselor. You can find more information about CAPS and their services on their website: http://caps.sdes.ucf.edu/.