In the past year and a half, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UNC Charlotte has been working hard to accommodate the increased demand of therapy sessions. After the April 30 shooting that left two students dead and four others injured as well as this year’s COVID-19 outbreak, students have faced a lot of adversity. As such, CAPS experienced a 20% increase in student demand during the fall semester of 2019 compared to the previous year, resulting in wait times of 3.78 days on average between scheduling requests and appointments. Based on data from the first two weeks of the 2020 fall semester, demand has stayed high this year, even with CAPS operating virtually and many students living far from campus.
Newly appointed director Dr. Paula Keeton described the ways in which CAPS has had to learn from these difficult situations and evolve to meet students’ needs. One of the most significant changes was promoting group therapy sessions while limiting the amount of typical one-on-one meetings a student might have with a counselor.
According to Keeton, group therapy "helps students who are struggling realize that they are not alone…to sit in a group and hear other people’s lived experiences and some of it’s similar to yours, and some of it not similar.”
“It almost causes healing in and of itself just to know you’re not alone.”
Group sessions have received similar satisfaction ratings to the individual sessions. She added that group therapy creates more counseling availability and decreases wait times in between appointments. Keeton added that the group sessions can help individuals understand and relate to other people, improve socialization skills and find their own voices.
In addition to keeping up with increasing demand, CAPS has had to transition to an online platform. Keeton says that these changes are here to stay and are being used to meet students needs in the future.
CAPS has a student advisory board that they use to seek insight from current students on how they can improve their current practices and methods to assist students. The center also meets with the Student Government Association (SGA) at UNC Charlotte to discuss ways in which they can acquire additional funding to assist in improving their pool of resources.
SGA Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Ross Landgraf explained how SGA is a large advocate for CAPS and how they are always searching for additional funding. This includes meeting with the Tuition and Fees Board where they can potentially “have that talk to start that research and analytics of the budget with some admin to figure out, if that money exists, where we can reallocate from.”
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chairman Jeremiah Williams added, “In the immediate future, we want to propose a very specific ask that will shift some funding to CAPS.” Williams reinforced Landgraf’s statement and explained how meeting with the Tuition and Fees Board is a long-term goal to reallocate funding for CAPS.
Williams was quick to commend CAPS: “I really think that they are working the best with the situation that they’re met with.” While he understands that it is difficult to be prepared for the events that have transpired in the past two years, Williams explained how important it was that Dr. Keeton and CAPS have been so willing to work with SGA to meet the increased demand.
“I commend Dr. Keeton especially," said Williams. "She’s been a great help and so willing to talk to all of us. She was very happy to engage with our advocacy.”
If you are interested in speaking with a counselor or discussing how to access these services please call 704-687-0311. If interested in a virtual outreach program please contact firstname.lastname@example.org