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Students speak on Rutgers counseling services

CAPS offers students a variety of services, such as individual and group psychotherapy, alcohol and other drug counseling, medication management and crisis intervention. – Photo by Photo by Google Maps | The Daily Targum

Rutgers’ Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) have seen an increase in student clients since 2008, said Annmarie Wacha-Montes, assistant director for community-based services.

CAPS’ services include individual and group psychotherapy, alcohol and other drug counseling, medication management, crisis intervention, concentrated treatment program services, referrals to community specialists and community-based services.

“Approximately 4,500 students have contact with CAPS per year and (approximately) 120 new students per week during peak times of the semester,” Wacha-Montes said.

Some students said CAPS is often busy, making it difficult to secure an appointment for individual therapy. Rana Ibrahim, a School of Engineering senior, said she had tried to make appointments before, but they were all booked for two weeks.

“If you’re stressed about an exam that is coming in a week, what is an appointment in two weeks going to do for you?” she said.

Ibrahim said this is an issue found in Rutgers’ other professional and medical services as well.

Maggie Ngai, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said while CAPS is busy, they always try their best to accommodate students who need help. She said rather than turning students down, they try to find times that work with students’ schedules.

“What I appreciated the most about CAPS was just how transparent they were,” Ngai said. “They always informed me about the purpose behind filling out certain forms, the types of therapies offered and how the processes worked.”

Ahua Traore, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said it is difficult for CAPS to tend to everyone due to the number of students who need regular counseling within the large school that is Rutgers. She said Rutgers should invest more in CAPS due to the increase in demand for mental health services.

Traore said she has gotten individual therapy and group therapy from CAPS, both positive experiences for her. 

“CAPS is honestly one of the reasons I haven’t dropped out,” she said. “When I wasn’t going to class or work due to not being able to get out of bed, I would still go to CAPS. It offered some relief. At one point, I was even lucky enough to connect with other students who were struggling through the group meetings I would attend every week.”

CAPS has seen an increase of students in its group therapy program, Wacha-Montes said. The program has expanded over the past several years to offer workshops and semester-long groups. Group themes include anxiety, depression, emotional regulation, eating issues, grief and loss, sexual identity and interpersonal issues.

“Students often find groups as a space to connect with others on campus where their experiences are validated,” said Tam Rovitto, the group therapy program coordinator. “Students also get support from other group members while working toward their personal goals.”

Traore also said her counselors in individual therapy were helpful in giving insight and perspective.

“Being able to talk and bounce my ideas off of someone who was there exclusively for me helped keep me balanced,” she said.

Ngai said she learned self-love and understanding from going to CAPS.

“What I learned from going to CAPS was the importance of having mercy on myself,” she said. “To learn to understand and love myself more. That during hard times it is okay to acknowledge my negative emotions — although the present may sometimes seem unbearable and hopeless that doesn’t mean that the future will be that way. Taking the first step into CAPS means that we are also taking the first step to help and improve ourselves.”

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