Penn is full of acronyms. The DP. VP. DRL. CAPS. In my post today, we’re going to take a look into that last one.
CAPS is the Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn. It is a place where Penn students can access free and confidential counseling services. CAPS offers individual therapy, group therapy, and group programs such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses and an eating concerns art therapy group. There are a variety of resources offered and CAPS is still growing and expanding to better serve the needs of the student population.
College is a stressful time. As someone who didn’t struggle a lot in high school, I didn’t think I would feel this way at Penn but I do. Knowing that CAPS is a free resource, I knew that it would be there if I needed it. However, as soon as I stepped on campus, upperclassmen and mentor figures warned me not to go to CAPS. They said things like; “It’s a waste of time!” “They aren’t that good anyway.” And so I didn’t go until the end of my freshman year when the stress was unbearable.
When I did go, I was expecting to be disappointed. However, I had the best experience I could ever ask for. Not only was I able to be matched with a counselor that met my preferences for an Asian Female counselor, but I was also able to bond and share a language with them. In my sessions, we determined that many of my stress stemmed from a lack of communication within my family. It was then offered that I could bring my parents in for a family counseling session – also free of charge.
My family now communicates more openly and my parents also approach my stress from school with more empathy. The session was helpful not just for me, but also for my parents to speak out about any concerns in a neutral safe space. Contrary to what I have heard from upperclassmen, my CAPS experience was very helpful.
This experience led me to join the CAPS Advisory Board – CAPSAB for short.
CAPSAB is a group of individuals from the undergraduate and graduate schools who wish to act as student liaisons between CAPS administrators and students to promote CAPS initiatives and events. CAPSAB members also plan and execute events to engage with the community, such as giving out donuts and coffee during wellness week, and administer surveys to get feedback about CAPS services. Our role is two-sided in that we are representing CAPS and students and advocating for both to ensure that students get the care they need and that CAPS enacts the changes that students want to see.
I became involved with CAPSAB because I wanted to share my experience with CAPS and to also promote the lesser known group initiatives that CAPS offers, such as the positive psychology workshops and international student support groups. CAPSAB gives me an opportunity to be the change I want to see at Penn, and also allows me to connect and engage with likeminded folks who are just as passionate as I am about mental health on campus.
The groups I have been a part of during my time at Penn have helped shape me into the individual that I am today, and my experiences help me contribute and shape the future members of those same groups. Penn has offered me a plethora of communities that I can turn to and rely on and CAPSAB is just one of many.