Carnegie Mellon University

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February 17, 2014

CAPS Expands Support Services

By Abby Simmons

Many of the investments Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has made to expand services were in the planning stages when campus-wide conversations about stress and mental health began last winter.

"The conversations reinforced the need for particular initiatives and helped us calibrate our priorities," CAPS Director Kurt Kumler said. "They also raised community awareness of mental health issues on our campus, which has been invaluable. We're seeing more students, faculty and staff getting involved in the mission shared by CAPS and UHS (University Health Services), prioritizing the health and wellness of our community members."

Kumler said in the fall counselors saw a significant increase of student appointments.

The department has hired two new therapists, including one full-time clinician and one doctoral-level psychotherapy trainee. Plans are underway to add another doctoral-level training position for the 2014-2015 academic year.

"CMU's staffing levels are above the national average when it comes to full-time clinical staff appointments. We have approximately one full-time therapist for every 1,300 students, while the national average for university counseling centers is one full-time therapist for every 1,600 students," Kumler said.

At the same time, CAPS enhanced after-hours support. Previously, on-call services were reserved for life-threatening emergencies

Starting in the fall semester, the service was expanded to offer immediate support for any distressed students who call CAPS between 5 p.m. and 8:30 a.m., regardless of the nature of the crisis.  

CAPS has hosted "drop-in" groups for students for the past two semesters as a way to provide support during a time when students report higher levels of stress. A staff member facilitates discussion among students, giving them an opportunity to share concerns, connect with and support peers. The groups also discuss coping strategies. "Surviving @ College" drop-in groups are currently being offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at CAPS.

CAPS also is collaborating with UHS to strengthen its impact. Staff Therapist Viviana Ferrer-Medina is working with UHS' Paula Martin, director of health promotions programs. Together, they are training 12 students who serve as Peer Health Advocates to implement more programs related to mental health and stress management.

In addition, CAPS and UHS have worked with Institutional Research and Analysis to launch CMU's Healthy U survey for students. Results will be used to inform existing and future health and wellness initiatives.

As part of its ongoing assessment efforts, CAPS will conduct a satisfaction survey later this spring. The department also is expanding information on its website,, to provide more information about therapy and mental health issues.

As conversations about campus culture continue, Kumler encourages the CMU community to consider stress and culture in a broader context.

"We are all called to reflect on 'What does stress mean?' Our culture at large has been changing. Look at the ways in which we view our time, utilize technology and approach relationships," Kumler said. "Building resilience is key to overcoming stressful situations."

CAPS Contacts

By phone: 412-268-2922