Carnegie Mellon University
Protecting the privacy of students receiving CaPS services is of utmost importance to us. In accordance with law, we do not release any information about a student to anyone outside of CaPS without the explicit written permission from the student. If you want CaPS to communicate with family members, faculty/staff, or other providers you can discuss this with a CaPS clinician and complete a Release of Information Form (ROI). 

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.

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!

CaPS can assist with consultation and crisis support to any CMU student in need. CaPS does not offer psychotherapy via Skype or telephone. Each branch campus or satellite program has support services for students enrolled in their program. For ongoing mental health treatment needs, we encourage you to contact your local Student Affairs support staff or CaPS to inquire about local options. CaPS often assists these Student Affairs support staff in finding local resources and consulting about treatment options.

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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.

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. 

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.

CaPS offers a range of different services to help students in need. Some students have needs that require long-term or specialized services in the community. The consultation appointment is the time for you and a therapist to determine the best way to address your needs.

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.

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 The APA Psychologist Locator can also help you find a provider in your area. 


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.

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.

CaPS offers students short-term psychotherapy. Most students come for 6-8 sessions, but the number of sessions you will receive will be determined by you and your therapist. If you desire or need long term care we can help you identify appropriate therapists and mental health professionals in the community. There are no limits for consultation, crisis support, referral and case management services.
No. CaPS is not able to accept private pay nor insurance. As students near the end of their sessions at CaPS, therapists will discuss recommendations for ongoing care and will help facilitate any referrals to providers in the community when appropriate.
Any student with urgent concerns can be seen as soon as is necessary to ensure they are supported and safe. All students are seen within five business days for an initial consultation appointment. The wait to then start psychotherapy will depend on the student’s availability as well as that of the therapist. For this reason there is some variation in how long it might take to start psychotherapy. Often it can be within a few days of the initial consultation.

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.

There are many useful campus support services available to students, including UHS, Academic Development, Office of Disability Resources, just to name a few. We can help you determine what is right for you over the phone as well as during an initial consultation appointment. Students are often referred to us from other support services, too, so if you go there and it seems like CaPS might be a good place to go to, they can steer you in this direction as well. Sometimes some combination of services and supports is best. See a list of available campus resources.

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.