CAPS: Cultivating Emotional Health, Happiness, and Success
"Viewing yourself with kindness and compassion at all times, contrary to popular belief, does not decrease your proficiency or performance, but actually helps it. And at CAPS, we try to have something for everyone, to help every UC student be healthy, happy, and successful."
-Tara Scarborough, Director of CAPS
When one thinks of managing their mental health, waiting until the last minute to ask for guidance may seem nonsensical and perhaps even a little irresponsible. But more than not this happens because, c'mon, we like to procrastinate. We also like ignoring warning signs and instead reinforcing the “just suck it up” mentality. We convince ourselves we can do just fine without the extra support.
But everyone, once in a while, needs some extra help. Especially when on the journey of becoming our best, most happy and successful selves.
This notion is something that Tara Scarborough, licensed psychologist and director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), would like echoed throughout the UC community. Located just off campus at 225 Calhoun Street, CAPS is a professional counseling office within the division of student affairs offering a variety of comprehensive counseling services, and you don’t have to be “in crisis” to utilize all that they provide.
“There is a stigma around talking about emotional health, and there is a stigma around seeking assistance for emotional health,” Scarborough says. “But CAPS wants you to be in your best place. We want you to be able to handle the challenges of your life. This is a good place to start, to come in for support.”
CAPS welcomes all students feeling all ways—students struggling, students confused as to how they’re feeling, and students simply overwhelmed with college life—and encourages them to call, drop by, or sign up for a scheduled therapy session.
“I think that’s a great message for any student,” Scarborough explains, “That when you are experiencing emotional distress, it doesn’t have to reach a high level—it doesn’t even necessarily have to be along the lines of depression and anxiety—it just has to be, you know, I’m not feeling good, I’m not sleeping well, I’m having difficulty in my relationships. Come into our doors with those problems and we can offer you help.”
What CAPS offers is extensive, strategic, and real—it strives to be a place where there is something for everyone, with services ranging from an open meditation room to individual and group therapy sessions. Out of their current 14 group sessions, one of their most popular, Mindful Self Compassion, completely fills every semester. The focus is practicing mindfulness with a non-judgmental position on self.
Other group sessions include Understanding Self and Others, Act for Anxiety, Mindfulness and Depression, group therapy specifically for graduate students, and group therapy specifically for international students. There are even specialized groups curated for LGBTQ students, transgender students, and students struggling with alcohol and drugs. “We have many students in recovery,” Scarborough adds, “which is a difficult thing to go through in college. You are thrown into this environment where maybe everyone seems to be binge drinking. But studies show that students believe more of their peers are drinking than actually are.”
In order to access all of CAPS’s amazing resources, a student must call and ask for an intake appointment. This appointment is completely individualized—the student meets with a counselor and a step-by-step plan is developed. “Sometimes what is decided is group therapy, sometimes it’s more individual work.” Scarborough explains, “That first [intake] session is at no cost to the student, as well as the first three sessions.”
And these sessions are curated to be convenient for students—easy to align with a busy class schedule, and easy to manage financially. Student health insurance covers the cost of sessions, with the exception of a small co-pay.
“One of our values is accessible quality care,” says Scarborough, “So, accessibility comes when you’re able to call and get an appointment. We also have walk-in hours. There’s a counselor on duty every open hour, so, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. students can walk through our doors.
What’s more, CAPS is spreading their initiative of mindfulness all over campus. Workshops are being held throughout the university, educating and training students as well as faculty on the benefits of mindfulness, and the warning signs of emotional distress. There’s also the Bearcats Support Network, a community of students who meet weekly to address emotional and mental wellbeing, and Let’s Talk sessions, where clinical counselors set up shop all over campus (the DAAP library, CCM, Steger, the Law school), and offer free and confidential 15-minute conversations to UC students.
Beyond their in-person sessions and workshops, they’ve also teamed up with TAO (Therapy Assistance Online), an online therapy platform that can be accessed for immediate emotional support. Any person with a UC email address can register, log on, and begin navigating content addressing topics such as mindfulness, anxiety, and self-care. It’s an easy but significant way to keep an eye on your mental health.
“This is exactly what we know about our health,” Scarborough explains, “That, if we intervene earlier, then other symptoms are not necessarily going to advance and we won’t reach crisis and be unable to function.”
Navigating college life can be difficult, and adjusting to the many transitions this life phase brings can be challenging. CAPS is an essential campus resource that can improve your college experience and also help you grow emotionally in ways that otherwise may not occur. Sometimes when emotional things happen, we are unable to articulate our way through those emotions, and we become stagnant. CAPS recognizes the existence of these small traumas, and the need to actively do something about them.
“Students are very hard on themselves,” Scarborough says, “They expect a lot of themselves, and with college life comes a lot of pressure. Viewing yourself with kindness and compassion at all times, contrary to popular belief, does not decrease your proficiency or performance, but actually helps it. And at CAPS, we try to have something for everyone, to help every UC student be healthy, happy, and successful.”
CAPS is always looking for ways to innovate and create positive change in students’ lives. If you have any ideas as to how CAPS can better serve the UC community, please connect at 513-556-0648 or @UC_CAPS.
Written by Danniah Daher, graduate assistant to the graduate school office.