A Deep Dive Into CaPS
by Rylan Vanacore | published Jan. 30th, 2023
Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is RIT’s primary mental health care for students. The service’s goal is to provide confidential and personal services that are able to meet the personal needs of the students’ mental health needs.
Over the years, CaPS has gained a mixed reputation among students. Some students have pleasant experiences with the services provided, while others feel there is room for improvements.
Student Experience With CaPS
Reporter conducted a survey on RIT students’ feelings and concerns with CaPS. The results of the survey were mixed.
People praised CaPS for having the support available when they need someone to talk with. Some students found that their counselors were very helpful for their needs.
Two of the biggest criticisms that students have with CaPS are the lack of long-term treatment services and the wait times to get into an appointment, with the latter being the most common complaint.
An anonymous source came forward to address the issues that she and many others have with CaPS.
“The wait times are really problematic for people that need immediate attention,” she said. “And then the response is, ‘well, you could go to a hospital.’ You're like, no I don't need that. I need to talk to somebody.”
“The wait times are really problematic for people that need immediate attention.”
A recent study showed that 73 percent of college students with mental health conditions experience a crisis on campus.
Many students need services that are able to deal with situations that require immediate attention.
Aside from immediate mental health crises, students still feel that the wait times are extremely long for regular counseling.
With the pandemic last year, students would have to wait up to a month just to speak with someone. There have been improvements made post-pandemic, but students still feel it is not enough.
CaPS has made it clear they are unable to provide long-term treatment options for their patients.
David Reetz, the director of CaPS, elaborated more on the subject of long-term treatments.
“Some people want long-term counseling, they want to meet with someone every week,” Reetz said. “But that's not a kind of counseling that we offer here.”
CaPS will organize a student with the case management department to set them up with someone else in the area who would be suited for their needs.
Students have found this unfair for a multitude of reasons.
Most students live on campus and do not have a means of transportation or are not familiar with the area.
There is also the problem that seeing a therapist is expensive, and some students might not have health insurance that covers it.
Some students have also brought up the fact that some of the places they are recommended to are no longer in service.
Kristina Colleluori, a therapist for CaPS and their outreach coordinator, claimed situations like that are out of CaPS hands.
“Our case managers will offer the student whatever level of support that they want to get connected off-campus,” Colleluori said. “The case manager will identify a list of providers for the student to reach out to and to get connected to.”
This is an issue with the case management department. If a student is not able to get connected with another provider, they need to reach out to either CaPS or case management.
“It really is primarily up to the student to follow up to let us know if they haven't gotten connected,” Colleluori explained. “If they don't ever reach back out to either [CaPS] or the case management office, then we wouldn't know if there was a problem and getting connected.”
Some students wish there was more communication on CaPS end, instead of leaving it primarily up to the student to reach out.
Another concern students have is they do not feel that CaPS are able to handle certain situations.
“For my experience, and other people I know, they were told they were crazy,” she explained. “Or they're like, 'you've come here too often.'”
“For my experience, and other people I know, they were told they were crazy.”
The anonymous source also mentioned the problems involving the way CaPS handles cases of sexual assault.
Many students go to CaPS seeking private help because it is the only place on RIT campus with student confidentiality.
Some students have described their experience as insincere, and they felt that the counselor they met with was trying to get the conversation over with rather than properly help them in the situation.
Students remarked that their experience felt like they were being victim-blamed and gaslit to downplay the situation.
Students have said they are not given the proper resources like a rape kit or a proper walkthrough of what they should do in that situation.
RIT ranks 9th place within the top 50 colleges for most reported sexual assault cases, and students want a service that will help survivors when these situations arise.
Ways CaPS is Working on Improvements
Since taking on the leadership role at CaPS seven years ago, David Reetz has been working on improvements.
One of the things implemented by Reetz is a 24-hour mental health hotline (1-855-436-1245) that can be called year-round.
Reetz and the rest of CaPS have been working closely with the case management department to handle a variety of different things, such as check-in with students' insurance, connecting students with providers and more. This gives CaPS more focus to work with the students.
“The case management department has allowed us to see more students and shorten that wait time as well,” Reetz said.
CaPS has also made efforts to expand its outreach by setting up offices around the RIT campus.
“We've expanded our reach to students over the last few years. We've created clinical offices all over campus,” Reetz explained. “So it's not just here that [treatment] happens, you get eight embedded providers.”
Embedded providers are smaller extensions of CaPS set up across campus to make their services more accessible.
These providers are located in different areas on campus like NTID, the Health Center, the Q Center, the Multicultural Center for Academic Success and the colleges of Computing and Information Sciences, Art and Design, Science and Engineering. Their jobs are to provide consulting and gain deeper insights into those specific learning communities.
During the pandemic, CaPS faced a lot of issues, especially when it came to seeing students. Everything was moved to remote sessions.
“In March, we got [our staff] trained within two weeks on how to effectively deliver Telemental Health Services got the right technology in place,” Reetz said.
While things have opened back up on campus, this service still exists today.
“So the virtual services still exist, it's just not the dominant model of service,” Reetz said.
A huge struggle that CaPS faced was getting students into sessions. CaPS has been working hard to get things moving faster again.
“We have lowered our wait time from what it was when I first started,” Colleluori explained. “Our wait time to get in for an initial appointment is less than 10 business days, and we have lots of fail-safes in place.”
There is still the problem that after getting set up with that initial appointment, the second appointment has up to 2-4 week wait time, which CaPS is continuously trying to improve by hiring more staff.
In terms of the treatment model, CaPS is still sticking with the short-term model that they have.
“Most college mental health offices operate under short-term treatment models,” Colleluori explained.
CaPS has been working to focus on allowing their treatments to fit the students' needs, they look at what those are and decide the appropriate wait time in between appointments.
Since they only offer the short-term treatment plan, if a student needs longer and more serious treatment, they will be set up with a local provider.
CaPS has a stigma around it that has been hard to shake. Many students are unaware that the wait times have improved over the years.
The students want CaPS to listen to the issues they have with the service, and make changes that better fit the needs of the students.
Some people think that CaPS could benefit from having more funding from RIT.
Since Colleluori has the unique role of outreach coordinator, she believes that extra funding from RIT towards CaPS could be used to expand outreach.
“I think that having an opportunity to do more preventative services, having schedules allow for all of our therapists who have phenomenal skills and expertise, to be able to bring that outside of the therapy office,” Colleluori explained.
Another struggle that CaPS faces is that many students don’t know that the service is offered.
There is a panel at orientation, but the information can be overwhelming to students and they might not retain it all. Advertising CaPS around campus could help benefit the service more.
Where it stands, there is a disconnect between CaPS and the students. While CaPS is putting in an effort to change, there are still improvements that the students need.