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The Center for Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) offers an active training program for externs from Penn State and other campuses, an APA-accredited internship program, and a post-doctoral program.

About the Center for Counseling & Psychological Services

The Center for Counseling and Psychological Services is a unit of Student Affairs. The center is the major and primary mental health and personal counseling resource for the over 46,000 students at Penn State's University Park Campus. Last academic year (2017-2018) our staff had contact with over 4,400 Penn State students for a total of approximately 22,600 contacts. Annually, over 9 percent of all students use our services for a wide variety of problems ranging from normal developmental issues to more extreme psychopathology.

Typical presenting problems include interpersonal concerns, depression, anxiety, lack of motivation or concentration, poor academic performance, eating disorders, and trauma. Less typical but frequently seen problems include various forms of more severe psychological disturbance.

Service Delivery

The center has four primary modes of service delivery, including brief urgent evaluation and follow-up, short-term individual and couples therapy and, group counseling/therapy/workshops.

  • Urgent evaluation and follow-up refers to a program in which clients are seen immediately following the phone screening for up to two sessions for further assessment, counseling, and referral as needed. Urgent evaluation is provided during regular working hours. There is a 24-hour crisis line available to Penn State students, but staff and trainees are not responsible for on-call coverage.  
  • Short-term individual therapy (from 6-9 sessions including the First Appointment) is offered to students with personal concerns that do not seem appropriate for group intervention. Long-term therapy is not generally provided by the center; however, at times, trainees can see a limited number of long-term therapy cases through occasional extended counseling where clinical need and financial need warrant such continued services. CAPS may also provide longer term counseling for athletes with drug and alcohol problems, eating disorders, or other emotional difficulties. Sexual assault survivors may also be seen for extended services.
  • CAPS offers an extensive group program with approximately 20-25 groups per semester. The majority of groups offered are general therapy groups, including those directed at specific populations (e.g., undergraduate women's groups, returning adult and graduate student groups, men's therapy group, etc.). In addition, CAPS offers theme-oriented groups or clinics (e.g. sexual assault recovery, stress management, eating disorder recovery, loss, anxiety, insomnia, perfectionism, mindful mood management, etc.). The Center also offers a number of discussion and support groups directed at specific populations (e.g. Women of Color Empowerment, Penn State Students on the Spectrum, etc.). Workshops are also offered on a weekly basis.
  • Psychiatric services are offered through two full-time psychiatrists and two psychiatric nurse practitioners.
  • Formal psychological testing is conducted with clients when appropriate.
  • The center also conducts extensive outreach programming for the University community as well as consultation for various departments and groups on campus. 
  • Significant blocks of time are also devoted to staff development, training, and research.
Location, Staff, and Administrative Structure

Location

The center is located on the fifth floor of the Student Health Center, which also houses University Health Services. CAPS has a second location next door in the Bank of America Building on Penn State's Campus, as well as a third location in downtown State College near campus. The externs and doctoral interns are located in the Student Health Center. The post-doctoral fellows are located in the Bank of America Building.

About the Staff

We are a comprehensive staff that consists of the following professionals: eighteen psychologists with backgrounds in counseling psychology or clinical psychology, six social workers, two psychiatrists and two psychiatric nurse practitioners, three licensed professional counselors, and additional clinical service providers, four full-time doctoral interns, four full-time post-doctoral fellows, seven to eight externs, and associate clinical staff.

Approximately 50 percent of staff time is devoted to the delivery of direct clinical and counseling services. An equivalent amount of staff time is spent in training and supervision, consultation and outreach, staff development, administrative responsibilities, and research and program evaluation.

Training is highly valued at our site. Numerous staff are involved in training in a variety of capacities including provision of individual and group supervision and providing didactic training through a range of seminar experiences. We are an organization with a strong open-door policy and both trainees and staff are encouraged to consult with one another to further their understanding and provide support in managing a range of clinical experiences.

Our staff reflects a range of theoretical orientations including cognitive-behavioral, existential-humanistic, feminist, interpersonal, psychodynamic, and trauma-informed models, with staff members being theoretically integrative and most operating within the short-term model.

Administrative Structure

The center is a major budgetary unit under the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. Within the center, in addition to the Director, there are four assistant directors responsible for training, clinical services, community education and outreach, and the Commonwealth Campuses. There is also an associate director for operations. In addition, many senior staff members have coordinator roles in given areas of expertise.

About Penn State and State College

Penn State is the largest provider of higher education in the state. Since its founding in 1855, it has established an international reputation for excellence in education, research, and public service.

The University's 540-acre campus is located in State College, a pleasant university community located in a lovely valley closely surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains. The population of Centre County stands at over 160,000.

The University is the major intellectual, cultural, and recreational resource for Central Pennsylvania, providing access to extensive libraries and major artistic and musical events. The Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus brings major concerts and entertainment events to the area and the Center for the Performing Arts, and the Palmer Art Museum on campus also have an excellent artist series each year. The State Theater in downtown State College brings interesting performances to the area as well.

Penn State has a reputation for outstanding sports programs and fine sports facilities (e.g., superb swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, running trails, a new intramural building, etc.). Penn State is a member of the Big Ten athletic conference. In addition, the Centre Region offers ample outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, swimming, camping, fishing, and downhill and cross-country skiing.

The University is located in the geographic center of Pennsylvania, approximately a four-hour drive to Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., and a three-hour drive to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Diversity at Penn State

Penn State has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. The diversity All In effort at Penn State demonstrates the university’s commitment to inclusivity and inspires community members to actively promote respect and embrace diversity. The university also has decades-long, strategic focus on diversity and has created a document outlining plans and efforts to this end, called Fostering and Embracing a Diverse World-Strategic Plan 2016-2020.

The university continues to successfully attract a vibrant, diverse student body as indicated in Penn State’s Fact Book. With the influence of such a diverse student body, staff, and faculty, the State College community boasts a number of ethnically diverse restaurants, grocers, and merchants that give State College a cosmopolitan flavor. 

In terms of campus and town, a number of groups exist which can provide a network for interns to join. Internship is a year to transition from student to professional, so there are opportunities to join both student groups and professional faculty/staff groups. For post-docs, there are opportunities to join professional and faculty/staff groups. Together the local and rural communities create a living experience that is the best of both worlds. Weekend visits to nearby cities are quite manageable with nearby buses going several times per day.

There are many student organizations that serve various multicultural/international constituencies, including the Black Graduate Student Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Caribbean Student Association, Puerto Rican Student Association, Black Caucus, LGBTQA Student Coalition, as well as organizations for Indian, Korean, Filipino, Native American, and Vietnamese students, among others. 

Professional organizations include the Forum on Black Affairs at Penn State, as well as numerous advocacy groups in central Pennsylvania, including Community and Campus in Unity, Standing at the Gates for Justice, Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Community Diversity Group, Global Connections, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Penn State also has various committees and commissions designed to improve the campus climate and examine the progress Penn State is making in the area of recruitment and retention of individuals from diverse backgrounds. These groups include, the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Equity; the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity; and Commission for Women. 

Penn State CAPS also has strong connections with many campus organizations including the Gender Equity Center, the LGBTQA Student Resource Center, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, and Student Disability Resources. Doctoral Interns and Post-Doctoral Fellows may have opportunities to work closely with one of these offices if they choose a Liaison/Consultation Outreach Concentration.

In addition, there are ongoing cultural activities and programs throughout the year. The Distinguished Speakers Series has featured John Legend, Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, Terry McMillan, Magic Johnson, Cornel West, Elaine H. Kim, Maya Angelou, Laverne Cox, and George Takei to name a few. The Paul Robeson Cultural Center sponsors many cultural events and activities that reflect the diversity of the Penn State population, including art exhibits, educational speakers, films, plays, and musical presentations. Well attended annual events during the year include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Banquet, Touch of Africa, Kwanzaa Extravaganza, and Chinese New Year. The LGBTA Student Resource Center also sponsors many events and activities designed to bring LGBTA students, faculty, and staff together.

University Park has hosted a number of popular concerts, including Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, BB King, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, O.A.R., and a range of other events from classical and jazz to country and R&B to Rap and popular music.

Penn  State has approximately 60 religious groups on campus. The Pasquerilla Spiritual Center is a facility that serves as a home for all of these groups.

For more diversity resources, visit the Community Diversity Resources listing, the listing on Commissions, Committees and Professional Development, and Penn State's Diversity Calendar for events planned this coming year.