Big changes have come to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) this year. In an effort to offer a more diverse range of resources and encourage students to utilize them, CAPS has implemented a new program, launched an app, and made its counselors more accessible than ever this school year.
Breathe is the new meditation and relaxation app, available through the NUHelp app. “Northwestern students are busy and on-the-go,” CAPS psychologist Monika Gutkowska said. “We wanted to create brief mindful acts that speak to our students.” The app launched this fall, and CAPS is now working to add a subsection that is targeted toward specific stressors that graduate students face.
This fall, CAPS created an online mental health screening, an anonymous assessment that is accessible to anyone in the Northwestern community. The short survey only takes about 10 minutes and can help identify symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
“It’s a good place to start if you’re not sure if you should seek professional help,” Gutkowska explained. “People always think, ‘Oh, everyone’s stressed out. My problems aren’t big enough.’ This screening can help encourage people to seek help if they need it and destigmatize counseling.”
Gutkowska also pointed out that the screening could be a valuable resource for faculty or staff who are unsure if they should refer a student to CAPS.
Another easy way for students to decide if they should seek help is through Let’s Talk. The new program stations CAPS counselors who are available for walk-in appointments across campus. Counselors are located in the International Office, the Women’s Center, University Library, the Black House, and the Multicultural Center.
The newest counsellor at CAPS, Kanika Wadhwa, has been working with the Let’s Talk program as well as taking on appointments as the on-staff women’s advocacy and wellness specialist. Since joining the staff in the fall, Wadhwa said she has enjoyed working with the “compassionate and dedicated staff at CAPS.”
“CAPS administrative staff have been very supportive of my ideas and implementing a new perspective to ensure a successful transition of my position to the greater Northwestern community,” Wadhwa said. “This has resulted in more robust and close collaboration with campus partners like the Women’s Center and CARE, which is a crucial aspect of my role at CAPS.”
In addition to building stronger relationships with other offices on campus, CAPS has been working to make their services more accessible to students. Once students determine if counseling is right for them, they can now book their phone consultation via the new online scheduling system. “Online scheduling encourages people to take the first step,” Gutkowska said. “It can be hard to pick up the phone, and we want to create the easiest access possible to our services.”
Of course, even with all of these new programs and updates available, Gutkowska said that students who are in crisis situations are still always encouraged to talk to CAPS’ on-call counselor. The 12 session limit was lifted in Fall 2016, enabling students to continue seeking help through CAPS as needed.