CAPS adds specialized staffers for University colleges

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 7:27pm

The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services is increasingly embedding counselors in individual schools and colleges — and the office reports the initiative is working.

The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services is increasingly embedding counselors in individual schools and colleges — and the office reports the initiative is working.

CAPS Director Dr. Todd Sevig said the “embedded model,” originally piloted through similar services at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa, was launched last year in response to a growing number of students seeking mental health services.

The CAPS 2014-2015 annual report said the office experienced a 17 percent increase in demand for services during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Our goal is to increase support, but not just to increase by doing the same old thing,” Sevig said. “We really wanted to grow in this new way, and that new way is a direct, local service delivery, local meeting within that particular place. And it also meets the needs of the schools and colleges.”

Sevig said the ability to tailor resources to a specific school or college’s culture is part of what makes the embedded model so successful.

“It’s the combination of these two things: it’s the ability to tailor, but then those decisions are from a staff member who knows intimately the culture of that place and has worked with students from that particular place, has worked with faculty from that particular place," he said.

The first phase of the model, launched in July 2014, assigned three counselors to the four North Campus schools and colleges — Art & Design, Architecture and Urban Planning, Music, Theatre & Dance and Engineering. Phase two, which includes the Ross School of Business, the Law School, the School of Dentistry and the Rackham Graduate School, rolled out this August.

Sevig said the first phase proved the embedded model helps CAPS reach more students.

“We learned a lot from phase one and we made some tweaks, but in short it really worked, it helps,” Sevig said. “We have that by way of data, we have that by way of anecdotal stories, we have that by way of the number of students that we’ve seen.”

The annual report also said the four schools and colleges who participated in phase one of the embedded model experienced a 34-percent increase of students seeking initial consultations.

He added the new model is helping reach students who otherwise would not have visited CAPS.

“Based on the data and the numbers, we think we have met a need in two different ways,” Sevig said. “We have seen students who probably would have come to Central (Campus), that’s good because it makes it easier for students. The other beauty, based on the data, is we know that we are reaching students who wouldn’t have come and received help.”

The three phase-one staff members dedicated 1,452 clinical hours and 189 hours of community service over the course of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Students are still welcome at the CAPS Central Campus location, Sevig added.

“If a student feels uncomfortable with seeing the person in that school or college, maybe they’re uncomfortable because someone will see them go to that staff member’s office let’s say, the beauty of that model and approach is that they can come to Central,” he said.

Sevig said the schools selected to participate in phase two of the model were chosen for a variety of reasons, one of which was because they are all professional schools whose students operate on unique schedules.

“After going through a number of possibilities we settled on for the most part the idea of professional schools,” he said. “We did do some thinking about what are the particulars, not just being a professional school, but what are the particulars that go into that. Who are we under-serving?”

Sevig said the Business school fit the mold for phase two not only because it is a professional school, but also because CAPS sees a lower percentage of students from that school than from other schools and colleges.

“Ross was an example of where the percentage of students coming to CAPS was lower than the University percentage,” he said. “It’s a little hard to know what goes into that, because you could call that we’re under-serving the Business School, but it gets conflated with gender. When we look at help seeking behavior in mental health care, it’s very standard that two-thirds are women and one-third are men. So if a particular school or college has a higher percentage of men, we’re going to see less of them.”

Business senior Jeffrey Yu, Ross Student Body President, wrote in an e-mail interview that he supports the embedded model.

“I think that embedding a CAPS counselor at the business school is a great idea," he wrote. "Although Ross has an undergraduate program, a large student population here consists of MBA and masters students who will rarely leave the business campus. Putting a CAPS counselor in Ross will make it more convenient for these students to access help if they need it.”

Echoing Yu’s sentiments, Business junior Libby Guise said the school should work on publicizing the new resource.

“I think the CAPS program is a great start to addressing mental health,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I think the only thing the school could do would be to raise awareness of the CAPS program.  A lot of students aren’t aware of the resources the school offers, so doing a better job of conveying these opportunities to students would go a long way in terms of overall mental health on campus.”

Business junior Anna Norman wrote in an e-mail that recent curriculum changes have made the business school more demanding for juniors.

“Junior year is different now that Ross has changed the curriculum,” she wrote. “This year, most juniors have an all-Ross semester and are planning to study abroad for the winter term. This means that everyone is recruiting for summer internships (which is extremely time consuming to the point that it seems like another class) along with having very full semesters.”

Business junior Sarah Perry said the Business School’s culture can lend itself to higher stress levels.

“I think the competitive culture in Ross can be mentally taxing,” Perry said. “The majority of people I've met in the Ross community are nice, hard-working and intelligent people who want to see their peers succeed. Both the process of getting an internship through Ross and the grade determination encourage a cutthroat atmosphere, where students may be tempted to cheat or lie to peers in order to save their own chances. A shift in the overall culture to a more collaborative, supportive atmosphere may increase overall mental health.”

However, Perry acknowledged this competitive culture also seems to encourage certain students to be more productive.

“I know many of my peers in Ross thrive in a competitive atmosphere, and the high stakes atmosphere has certainly kept me on my toes, so maybe it isn't so bad after all,” she said.

Yu rejected the idea that the Business school is more competitive than other schools and colleges at the University.

“I wouldn't say that our culture is more competitive than other schools such as LSA and Engineering,” he wrote. “Everyone here at Michigan strives to do well and Ross students are no exception. From group projects to interview prep sessions, Ross students are always helping each other out and pushing each other to do their best work.”

While a third phase for the embedded model is not currently in the works, it is up for consideration, Sevig said.

“There is not an active phase three,” he said. “At the same time, we are looking at other possible ways given that based on last year, the model is really working. So we are thinking of other ways that this could help the campus. I think we’re going to take this year and really delve into that.”