For Medill freshman Madison Blanchard, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) started out as a positive experience. She liked her counselor and the process of setting up appointments, but as she used up an increasing number of her 12 sessions, she struggled to find a counselor in Evanston.
“It was definitely a struggle because in Evanston there are only so many places that are in my insurance," she said. "Otherwise it was going to be $120 per counseling session which is just not feasible.”
On top of that, she had to start all over again with a new counselor.
“I wish I had had more sessions with CAPS," she said. "I got to know the counselor and it was a bad transition from seeing her at CAPS and then I had to wait like two more months to see a new counselor.”
For people in Blanchard’s situation, that will be changing as of Fall Quarter 2016. CAPS will be lifting its session limit due to a task force recommendation.
“The 12 session limit was creating an access barrier to initial access to CAPS services such as students not wanting to come to CAPS because they didn’t want to use their sessions," said David Shor, CAPS clinical director and task force chair.
This may also change how CAPS is utilized by students. Former ASG Vice President for Student Life and SESP senior Chris Harlow, who served on the task force, said that the 12 session limit made some students feel like the limited number of one-on-one sessions were the only way to address their problems.
“Each student will have a care plan that is specific to them that doesn’t consider a session limit," he said. "You don’t want students to have a fear that they’re going to run out. But if a student only needs six sessions they only need six.”
He also said he hopes this will change the dialogue surrounding what CAPS has to offer.
“You would never go to the doctor thinking that there’s only one thing that they can give you,” he said. “Students forget about this whole other arsenal of CAPS professionals who provide other services that are just as good or better or more effective and less resource intensive.”
This is in line with Harlow’s own experience at CAPS.
“I came into CAPS looking to learn a new stress mitigation technique, and I could have had that through one-on-one counseling. They persuaded me that group therapy or a workshop would have been better, and it was,” he said.
Shor said that he didn’t anticipate this creating a greater wait time for students to get sessions, because CAPS is supposed to be a short-term counseling center.
Harlow agreed, saying that if they can shift more students to other resources, the wait time for one-on-one therapy might be reduced.
Shor added that CAPS will be updating its website with a “flow chart of all of the ways of accessing our services and all of the available services” to increase accessibility.
Wendy Roldan, the current ASG VP of Student Life, also served on the task force. “The recommendations we came up with were a product of the many conversations we had during the task force of how can we help as many students as possible so that they can see CAPS as a resource that doesn’t have limits,” she said.
Roldan also added that despite the fact that she is pleased with the outcome, it's not the end.
“This is just one step toward hopefully solving the entire problem,” she said.