How CAPS Has Responded to COVID
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn State serves a pivotal purpose in enhancing and improving the lives of students in need of a wide variety of services.
With the strike of COVID-19 last March, the virus has affected the mental and physical health of Penn State students and their everyday routines. However, Penn State CAPS is stating that it’s here to assist students with their mental-health needs.
Dr. Stephanie Stama, assistant director of CAPS, shared her insight on students’ overall participation and interest in the program since COVID has hit.
“Interestingly, what’s happened at CAPS is actually pretty standard nationwide,” Stama said. “Since COVID began, we’ve actually had fewer students accessing services at our counseling center, but for the students who sought services with us, they have been able to actually get 20% more services.”
The reason being for this has to do with students heading back home, and, therefore, not as many of them were present in State College.
“We were helping students get connected to providers who were in their local communities or in states and even countries where that student was residing,” Stama added.
COVID has affected the ability for face-to-face interactions, yet virtual services are still available for students looking for assistance.
“Transitioning remote has been a challenge, and I think we’ve also had to get a lot more creative since going remote, which isn’t such a bad thing,” Stama said.
Students are CAPS’ top priority regardless of the setting. One-on-one counseling, group therapy or using the white board on Zoom have been new and unique ways that the CAPS program has engaged with its students.
“I think what has become more of a challenge is that it is harder to engage,” Stama said. “It feels so different than being in person, and so we’ve had to try and get creative with some different techniques for engaging people.”
There has been success within the CAPS program, such as positive feedback from students who are a part of it. Some benefits include students actually feeling more comfortable connecting in group therapy rather than sitting in a room physically with another person.
CAPS providing virtual services has also allowed students to freely participate on their own time, as many are located in different time zones, so their schedules vary.
“The best way for students to learn more about CAPS services is to just start on our website and students can browse on ‘Wellness Services’ to think about the variety of services we have,” Stama said.
CAPS also has some platforms like You@PSU and WellTrack, and they try to use those platforms to do things at their fingertips more conveniently at their own pace where they don’t need a counselor face-to-face. There is even the option to receive professional coaching for needs that might be related to relationship concerns, difficulty focusing, or even stress and anxiety.
“I try to think of COVID in a silver lining way but also acknowledge that it is hard,” Stama said. “COVID has been stressful, but I hope we can all step back and look at the bigger picture of the things we’ve gained as well.”
Olivia Manfredo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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