Starting in Spring 2023, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has resumed in-person meetings for individuals and groups. Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, all meetings were moved to Zoom as a way to accommodate health guidelines. CAPS has now adopted a hybrid system for students to choose in-person or virtual sessions, where they are paired with a trained counselor.
Although the options to meet with counselors allow for more accessibility, the demand for meetings has increased this past semester, leading to longer wait times. Counselors encourage students to sign up at the beginning of the semester to get matched with a counselor as quickly as possible.
This semester has also marked the return of in-person group psychotherapy led by licensed therapists anywhere from six to ten students. The groups will be meeting weekly for ten sessions throughout the semester.
Individual meetings are still available for students that prefer one-on-one interactions with a therapist. Sessions are scheduled once every two weeks and run for 50 minutes.
In an interview with The Phoenix, CAPS Director Dr. Simone Collins explained the noticeable impact COVID-19 has had on students. Mainly, the abrupt increase in patients due to the pandemic.
“COVID has been a factor throughout my short time here, so I can’t fully speak to how things look different in comparison to a pre-COVID version of CAPS. However, I would say that due to COVID, we are seeing an increase in anxiety, especially social anxiety. Clients spent a couple of really formative years in relative isolation from peers. They are now relearning how to share spaces with others and how we move through and experience the world around us,” said Collins.
CAPS is currently working through the lasting effects of COVID-19 and the ongoing stress it has placed on Swarthmore students. The additional pressures that come with being a college student have only amplified stress on campus.
Collins explained the services CAPS provided for Swarthmore students and its goals for the upcoming semester.
“CAPS helps reduce barriers for clients caused by mental health concerns. We provide crisis support, teach skills for managing stressors, help process trauma, assist in identity exploration, and share preventative tools to improve overall mental health and wellbeing,” she said.
Collins further described the skills that CAPS counselors teach students to improve their quality of life.
“Our goal is to help clients develop the tools for leading successful lives both as a student and when they leave Swarthmore. So, in the short term, we are helping with symptom reduction, skill building, and exploration which in the long term leads to higher rates of graduation and better overall mental health and wellbeing,” she said.
However, there has been some pushback from students about the number of sessions per month and the limited number of counselors. Chris Chen ’26 spoke about his experience with CAPS during the Fall 2022 and current semester. Although he is appreciative of the benefits of a space to discuss mental health issues, Chen explained how there should be an increase in the regularity of sessions.
“I understand the motives behind having one session every two weeks because of the shortage of counselors. However, having such a lengthy time gap in between sessions makes them feel less productive or impactful, especially considering how much can happen within a two-week time span that may significantly alter or damage someone’s emotional health,” said Chen.
Ruthie Njagi ’25 also expressed concerns about the consistency of CAPS appointments.
“This is my third semester doing CAPS and I have had three different specialists throughout this time because of how frequently specialists leave or get other jobs. The only thing I would change about CAPS right now is having weekly, rather than bi-weekly, meetings,” she said.
Despite this, Njagi reflected positively on her experiences with CAPS counselors.
“The three specialists that I have interacted with have been great and really effective in talking me through experiences and even providing treatment and coping mechanisms,” she said.
CAPS has been improving its services after concerns from students. They have already started their rebooting process by adding more accessible features, such as online appointment booking.
“We have also added web booking for those appointments so students are able to go to our website, fill out their information, and choose an appointment time that works for them,” Collins added.
CAPS also planned workshops and drop-in hours for students relating to mental health, including the Hearts & Crafts drop-in space and the Thrive workshop. The Thrive workshops cover a range of issues. Future workshops include one titled “But I Don’t Want to Be a Burden: How To Ask for What You Need (and Not feel Terrible)” and another named “The Brain & Pain: Managing Chronic Or Recurring Pain.”
These new additions alongside Talkspace, psychiatry options, and referrals to external providers are available to students. Despite recent additions to on-campus mental health resources, Collins emphasized how CAPS is a continued work in progress.
“I welcome student feedback as we continue to work on improving CAPS and deepening community. Check out the feedback form on our website for ways to share your experience,” Collins said.