Frequently Asked Questions
Confidentiality: Will anyone know about my visits to CaPS?
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania any individual over the age of 16 has the right to keep treatment private from his/her parents. Accordingly, we do not release confidential information to parents or family members unless a written consent has been signed.
There are limits to confidentiality. By law we are obligated to disclose personal information without permission in emergency situations where information is needed to protect the safety of someone whose life may be at risk. You can discuss any concerns you have about the limits to confidentiality with your CaPS therapist at any time.
Who goes to CaPS?
CaPS offers mental health services to all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at the Pittsburgh campus*. We see approximately 13% of the student population each year. Students come to CaPS for a variety of reasons, in some cases students use therapy for self-exploration as a way to better understanding themselves. Other times, students are looking for emotional or psychological support on how to deal with a psychological difficulty.
*For CMU Students NOT enrolled at the Pittsburgh campus, see the next FAQ.
Here are some examples of reasons students come to CaPS:
• Self exploration
• Depression, feeling too sad too much of the time
• Stress and anxiety
• Friendship issues, loneliness, isolation
• Adjusting to college, homesickness
• Problems with self-esteem, feeling bad about yourself
• Romantic relationship concerns
• Family of origin issues
• Roommate problems
• Sense of identity and personal growth
• Sexuality concerns
• Dealing with loss
• Academic issues, test anxiety, motivation, procrastination, career uncertainties
• Alcohol and drug use
• Concerns about problematic eating
• Sexual assault or abuse
It does not matter if what you are going through seems big or small to you; let’s talk about it!
What if I am a CMU student enrolled in a branch campus, satellite program or study abroad program?
My friend is in distress. How can I help?
If you feel concerned or worried about a friend click here.
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is often called “counseling” or “therapy.” Psychotherapy is a process of addressing mental health and personal growth issues by talking them through in a private, confidential setting with a trained professional. The process involves weekly meetings to allow for the development of trust and comfort in the relationship between you and your therapist. This exploration in a supportive environment is a process that can lead to greater understanding and self-awareness. It can facilitate maturation and growth as well as help one develop the skills necessary to deal successfully with personal problems and life challenges.
What would a session at CaPS look like?
Sessions at CaPS are 45-50 minutes in length. At first, the meetings are usually focused on information gathering. Your therapist will ask questions about the concerns which brought you in and about your life in general in order to get to know you and have a better understanding of your needs. One of the important goals of these meetings is to determine the right kind of treatment for you.
Subsequent sessions may take different shapes or forms but, for the most part, your therapist will encourage you to talk freely about your thoughts, feelings, and whatever is troubling you. As sessions progress, you should feel more comfortable with your therapist and you may focus on many different subjects or themes. Don't worry if you find it hard to open up about your feelings. Your therapist can help you gain more comfort as time goes on. It is important you are open with your therapist and share with him/her your experience of your work together. Both you and your therapist are in this together and communication and collaboration will be important for its success.
When should I go to CaPS?
We all go through stressful situations and tough times in our lives. This is especially true during our college years, when we face new challenges and many changes. Reaching out to someone at CaPS will help you get the support you need to grow personally and thrive in college. Asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity; it is not a sign of weakness.
We encourage you to come to CaPS before your personal struggle becomes overwhelming. Some students wait until they are in a panic or reach a breaking point before seeking help, which can result in undue hardship and pain. You might want to consider seeking professional help when things in your personal life are not feeling quite right or when you are in distress and don’t know how to handle it. Many students engage in psychotherapy to learn more about themselves to be better equipped to manage life’s challenges.
Here are a few examples of indications that you may be distressed and want to consider coming to CaPS:
Sleep – difficulties falling asleep, difficulties sleeping throughout the night, sleeping too much, not wanting to get out of bed, avoiding sleep by staying up all night. Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is essential for mental health and for sustaining high levels of academic performance.
Appetite – eating more, eating less, or choosing foods you don’t normally eat. Doing things like this with food is often a sign that something is going on psychologically and it is not being adequately addressed.
Social Withdrawal – withdrawing from family and friends (not wanting to talk to them or see them), staying by yourself too much, avoiding social situations, avoiding classes.
Focus/Concentration – difficulty paying attention in class, difficulties focusing on assignments, having to re-read the same paragraph over and over again in order to understand what you are reading.
Mood – increased moodiness, sadness, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, worries, fear, or hopeless.
Energy Level – sustained decrease in energy level and motivation, or having too much energy (for example: unable to sleep or turn off your thoughts)
Motivation – loss of interest in academic work, feeling uninterested in pleasurable activities, apathy.
Behavior Changes – acting differently than usual (e.g. talking back at people, “not caring” attitude, not performing like you used to, not engaging in activities you used to enjoy, increased substance abuse, engaging in other self destructive behavior.
If you are still uncertain whether CaPS is the right place for you, you can call and ask to consult with a therapist. We will meet with you, talk about what is going on for you, and we will then discuss your options for treatment, if appropriate.
Why do I have to attend a consultation appointment before starting psychotherapy at CaPS?
What is the difference between therapy and consultation?
Therapy is a process that involves regular meetings with a professional so that trust and intimacy can develop. Consultation is often a single encounter with a professional that is aimed at clarifying a discrete issue or problem and identifying some ways to cope or respond. Your first encounter with a therapist, whether for a routine or urgent visit will be a consultation. Additionally, therapists provide consultation to faculty, staff and concerned family members.
Will I get psychotherapy at CaPS or be referred to a therapist off-campus?
When you begin the process of seeking professional help, it’s not easy to know where to start. We encourage students to use CaPS as the first step in figuring out what type of help is needed. Your first encounter with a CaPS therapist will help determine the right path, whether at CaPS or with a provider in the community.
CaPS provides short-term psychotherapy. In cases when there is a desire or need for longer-term or specialized care, CaPS staff will help students connect with the right resources in the community. These might include long-term psychotherapy, psychiatric care, psychological testing and evaluations, or intensive specialized care for eating disorders or substance abuse.
What if I want to find my own therapist in the community?
CaPS can help you find a therapist in the community but if you want to do this yourself here are a few tips and suggestions:
- Find out what your insurance benefits are. It would be helpful for you to know what your mental/behavioral health outpatient benefits are. Find out if you have a deductible and if there is a co-payment (out of pocket cost) for the services. Please note that for those students using the CMU Aetna health insurance, therapy sessions are covered in full with no co-payment.
- Find out who your insurance covers. There are many times when you can access your insurance website for a list of providers in the area. If this is not readily available online you can also call them and ask them to fax/tell you a list of providers in your area.
- Narrow down your search. Once you have a list of therapists to choose from consider the following questions: do I have a gender preference? What area/location works better for me? Some therapists list areas of specializations, if that is the case, think what areas would be helpful to you.
- Identify two or three therapists. Because therapists may not always have openings or availabilities in the time frame that you want, we recommend you select two or three therapists from the list that meet your criteria. Be prepared to call and leave a clear message with your name and a phone number for them to reach you in order to schedule an appointment.
- Meeting your therapist. We encourage you to approach the first encounter with openness and honesty, while also recognizing that you are trying to find a therapist who feels like a good fit for you. Notice how you feel when you talk to the person, get a sense of what it feels like when you are with them, and attend to your level of comfort or discomfort with them.
What is the cost of services?
All services at CaPS are free. If students are interested in continuing psychotherapy beyond our short-term model, or if they are in need of specialized or more intensive treatment, we can help them find services in the community that would fit their needs. These services in the community are usually paid for through the student’s health insurance.
Can I be seen right away if I walk in to CaPS?
We offer same day urgent appointments to support students in distress. Students can walk-in or call CaPS to be screened for a same day urgent consultation. At the time of the meeting, a therapist will evaluate your personal situation and formulate a plan with you on what is the best next step to take.
What does brief therapy look like?
If I reach the limits of the short-term psychotherapy at CaPS, can I pay to continue working with my therapist?
How much time will I have to wait before I can start therapy?
Who is the staff at CaPS?
CaPS clinical staff consists of nine full-time psychotherapists and four TCC clinicians. As an advanced training facility, CaPS has several therapists-in-training on staff as well. These are psychology doctoral students and psychiatric residents with prior experience in therapy and supervision. You can be confident that your therapist has the appropriate knowledge and experience to help you address your struggles. If you have any questions or feel you need to see a senior therapist, please call us (412-268-2922) and let us know of your concern. While the clinicians and therapists on staff at CaPS represent a variety of disciplines and styles, we all share a passion for working with college students and a vested interest in their well-being and personal growth.
Given the many different places to go for support at CMU, how do I know if CaPS is the right place for me?
I have heard of the groups offered by CaPS but I don’t know if they are for me. How are groups helpful?
One of the reasons group work is so beneficial is that it provides the opportunity to learn and grow through interaction with others in a supportive, safe, and confidential setting. Groups also help by connecting students with others who share similar concerns, allowing them to experience acceptance and belonging, give and receive support, and reduce isolation.
Group therapy helps group members experience new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. A main focus in group therapy is your process of relating to other group members. This work can involve group members developing trust, building intimacy, or working through conflicts together. As group therapists facilitate a safe and confidential environment, group members are able to give support, offer feedback, help raise awareness of interpersonal patterns, and help address difficulties. Like other forms of therapy, what you get out of your group experience will depend largely on what you invest into it.
It may seem scary to think about discussing personal stuff with your peers. If you’re feeling hesitant—and many people do up front—that’s not necessarily a reason to not pursue group work. In fact, that may be a clue that group could be helpful to you, indicating that you could benefit from practicing your relationship skills and increasing your willingness and comfort in sharing your experiences (including your struggles) with others.
I am looking for housing accommodations based on my mental health diagnosis and needs. What do I do next?
CaPS works closely with Housing and Residential Education Office to facilitate the process and help you complete all the proper documentation.
1. With your treatment provider, please complete the CMU Housing and Accommodation Form. Documentation is needed from the student and the medical/mental health provider who can speak to the diagnosis, needs, and necessity of the accommodation.
2. Contact CaPS and ask to speak with a TCC clinician. Although CaPS cannot guarantee housing options or approvals, we do facilitate the process with Housing and Residential Education. You will be asked to complete releases of information for a CaPS clinician to speak with the necessary individuals/offices to help in this process (in most cases we communicate with Housing and Residential Education Office and your medical/mental health provider).
3. Once your provider completes the documentation, it can be submitted to the CaPS clinician. All housing accommodations requests due to a mental health diagnosis (e.g. ADHD) are submitted to CaPS and not to University Health Services or the Housing and Residential Education Office. You can fax your documentation to: 412-268-4084.
4. You are responsible for meeting appropriate housing deadlines. Please contact the Housing and Residential Education Office for deadlines and details.
If you are seeking housing accommodations based on a specific physical/medical condition without a mental health condition, you would complete the same form, but submit to the comprehensive care manager at University Health Services.
I am looking for academic accommodations based on my mental health diagnosis and needs. What do I do next?
If you received academic accommodations at your previous educational institution (i.e., extended time for testing, quiet testing area, etc.) or your provider feels that you need them now, you could be eligible for such accommodations at CMU at an undergraduate or graduate school level. CaPS partners with the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) to facilitate the process and help you with the proper documentation. The Office of Disability Resources requires a licensed medical or mental health provider to provide current documentation that includes diagnosis, an explanation of how your disability impacts your academic performance or campus life, and recommended accommodations. This documentation can be provided directly to the Office of Disability Resources or a CaPS clinician can help you in the process.
I am a new CMU student with Mental Health needs. How can you help?
CaPS can help you get connected to the appropriate care and services in the Pittsburgh area and within CMU. We recommend you schedule a consultation session for us to learn more about your needs and preferences with the purpose of making the appropriate recommendations, which may include services at CaPS, campus support services, or local community providers. Our clinicians try to provide recommendations and referrals that are tailored to individual preferences and/or current circumstances (e.g. insurance coverage, gender, cultural or spiritual background, specific specialties or approaches of the provider).
CaPS also offers phone consultations to those students who are not local and would like to have information and resources before arriving to the area. During this phone consultation, you are welcome to have someone else (e.g. parent, guarding, sibling, etc.) from home participate in the conversation.
If you are not wanting to schedule a consultation session, CaPS can help you obtain general referrals based on your insurance without a consultation. While it won’t be as tailored, we can still help you get started. If you have any challenges getting appointments or finding a good fit, you are always welcome to call back for more help.
If you would like to find your own therapist in the Pittsburgh area, please check our FAQ “What if I want to find my own therapist in the community?” You can also follow the same guidelines to find a psychiatrist but, be aware, there are not many psychiatrist listed, so consulting with CaPS may be your best option for psychiatric referrals.
How long does it take to get in to see a therapist or psychiatrist in the Pittsburgh area?
For routine new patient appointments, the amount of time to get in to see a provider can vary widely based on your availability and their openings. However, it generally takes several weeks (1-3 weeks on average) from appointment request to actual appointment with therapists. For psychiatrists, it can take longer (6-8 weeks on average) from appointment request to actual appointment. It is important to plan ahead for care to ensure no lapse in your medication. For new students moving to the area, we recommend calling several months in advance of moving to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist.
I think I might have ADHD. What do I do?
Some of the same symptoms of ADHD such as distractibility, difficulty sustaining concentration, etc. are common symptoms of other conditions (depression, anxiety, trauma, significantly increased stress, adjustment to new demands/changes, significant sleep disruption, underlying medical conditions, side effects to medications, etc.). Therefore, it is important to obtain a thorough evaluation to determine whether the problems are specific to an ADHD diagnosis because treatment could be quite different based on the origin of the problem.
The first step is to schedule the evaluation, called a “neuropsychological evaluation.” The neuropsychological evaluation will help determine the diagnosis and the treatment options (i.e., therapy, medication, academic accommodations, etc.). While these evaluations are not available at CaPS, we can help you find a community provider that accepts your insurance and could provide this. Feel free to call CaPS to schedule a consultation and talk to us about your concerns and how to get started.
Pittsburgh has multiple private providers who specialize in neuropsychological evaluations and diagnose ADHD. There is also a specialty clinic within walking distance of campus that provides evaluation and treatment of ADHD, ADHD Across the Lifespan Program at WPIC.
I have been diagnosed with ADHD. Now what?
Finding the right treatment for you will be important in learning how to manage your symptoms of ADHD. The following supports are available:
• Therapy: As students transition to college and/or graduate school, it can be quite overwhelming to establish new routines and establish new relationships in the face of increased demands and less structure. Individual and/or group therapy can help. CaPS can help you get connected to the appropriate therapy to support your needs. Please schedule a consultation at CaPS to discuss.
• Medication: If you are interested in establishing psychiatric treatment with a provider in Pittsburgh, CaPS can assist with this process. Please keep in mind the following three details given that stimulant medications are controlled substances.
o Stimulants are highly regulated medications at the state and federal level. Your current physician will likely give you a 30-day supply before coming to school, but it takes some time to get in to see a psychiatrist (sometimes 6-8 weeks). Therefore, it is important to plan ahead and schedule an appointment with a Pittsburgh physician prior to finishing up with your current provider. If you are close to running out, our recommendation is for you to contact your most recent provider and ask for a new script to get you through until you see your next doctor.
o Extensive documentation of diagnostic evaluation and treatment records are usually required in order to continue prescriptions for stimulant medication. Therefore, you will need to sign a release of information for your records to be released. If you are interested in CaPS helping with this, schedule a consultation session at CaPS. We will ask that you sign a release of information for your current provider to release your evaluation and medication records to CaPS. If the documentation of evaluation and diagnosis is missing or found to not be thorough enough, new doctors may refuse to prescribe until a new evaluation is completed.
o Click here if you would like to learn more information on how to connect with a psychiatrist at CMU. CaPS partners with University Health Services (UHS) to provide transitional psychiatric care to students.
• Executive Functioning/Academic Coaching: Some students have had this service in high school or are interested in connecting for the first time. This is a service that includes individual appointments with a coach who helps the student organize, plan and prioritize tasks for their week with classes and other demands. This coach also teaches strategies to increase independence at the college level, so that students can experience the most success. This service tends to be more intensive and individualized than what can be offered in Academic Development. Therefore, CaPS can help students connect with a specific community provider who can provide this service. It is important to note that this service is not covered by insurance and is private pay, but there are sometimes scholarships available.
• CMU office of Academic Development: Transitioning to college and graduate school bring on new challenges in planning, organizing, studying, etc. The Academic Development office provides some level of academic coaching and workshops to give students strategies that are specific to the demands and changes in the college setting. They also provide individual tutoring and group sessions targeting traditionally difficult classes at CMU.