Counseling & Psychological Services Training
The Center for Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) offers an active training program for externs from Penn State and other campuses, an APA-accredited doctoral internship program, and a post-doctoral program.
- About the Center for Counseling & Psychological Services
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is the primary mental health provider for Penn State students at the University Park campus and distributes university-wide mental health resources to all Penn State campuses. As a comprehensive counseling center, CAPS provides a full range of short-term clinical services, consultation, community education, training of future mental health practitioners, and conducts research on college student mental health. Our mission is to support students' mental health and well-being as they pursue their academic and career goals. Essential to this mission is fostering a welcoming and affirming environment that honors diversity and values individual and cultural differences.
During the 2021-2022 Academic Year our staff had contact with over 4,100 Penn State students for a total of approximately 18,500 contacts. These numbers are commensurate with the change in number of students receiving mental health services at college and university counseling centers nationwide since the beginning of COVID-19 according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (2021). In a typical year, nearly 10% of all students at Penn State use our services for a wide variety of developmental and mental health concerns.
Common presenting problems include, but are not limited to, typical development issues, interpersonal concerns, depression, anxiety, lack of motivation or concentration, poor academic performance, body image and eating disorders, as well as trauma. Less typical, but frequently seen problems, include more severe mental health concerns (e.g., Bipolar Disorder, psychosis).
- Service Delivery
Initial contact with our clinical system involves a phone screen appointment with a clinician to determine the nature, impact and immediacy of presenting concerns. The clinician will identify appropriate next steps and discuss the best treatment options available at the time with each student.
Primary modes of service delivery within CAPS include urgent evaluation and follow-up, short-term individual and couples therapy, and group counseling/therapy/clinics/workshops. CAPS also offers psychiatric services, psychological assessment, and community education and consultation. Significant blocks of time are also devoted to staff development, training, and research.
- Urgent evaluation and follow-up refers to a process in which clients are seen immediately following the phone screening appointment 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 and couples therapy varies in length from person to person but can range from 1-9 sessions, including the First Appointment. Long-term therapy is generally not provided by the center; however, at times, trainees may be able to see a limited number of long-term therapy cases through occasional extended counseling where clinical need and financial need warrant such continued services.
- CAPS offers an extensive group program with approximately 25-30 groups per semester. Most 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, Sexual and Gender Diverse Student Support Group, etc.). Workshops are also offered on a weekly basis.
- Psychiatric services are offered through a full-time psychiatrist and three psychiatric nurse practitioners.
- Formal psychological assessment may be conducted with clients when appropriate, though this is not a primary service provided by CAPS.
- The center also conducts extensive outreach programming for the University community, as well as consultation for various departments and groups on campus.
- Update on Training During Time of COVID-19
All Penn State CAPS staff, including trainees, are on site working from their campus offices. During the 2021-2022 training year, trainees provided a mix of tele and in-person services. Provision of psychological assessment services for the 2022-2023 training year will occur during the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters. Training seminars are typically conducted in person unless tele is indicated to minimize exposure to COVID-19. Individual psychotherapy supervision is provided in person. Additional group supervision opportunities are provided tele or in person.
- Location, Staff, and Administrative Structure
The main 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, doctoral interns, and post-doctoral fellows are all located in the Student Health Center.
About the Staff
We are a comprehensive staff that consists of the following professionals: psychologists with backgrounds in counseling psychology or clinical psychology, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, professional counselors, a marriage and family therapist, case managers, doctoral interns, post-doctoral fellows, externs, and part-time 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.
The center is a major budgetary unit under the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. Within the center, in addition to the Senior Director, there are three Associate Directors responsible for training, the Commonwealth Campuses, and for operations and the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. There are also two Assistant Directors responsible for clinical services and community education and outreach. 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 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 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
The university continues to successfully attract a vibrant, diverse student body as indicated in Penn State's Facts and Rankings and Data Digest. With the influence of such a diverse student body, staff, and faculty, the State College community offers an array of uniquely diverse dining and retail options as well as cultural events for all to enjoy.
Black Graduate Student Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Caucus, Puerto Rican Student Association-Latino Caucus, Black Caucus, Penn State Lion Pride Roundtable for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, Queer and Trans People of Color, as well as organizations for Indian, Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese students, among others.
Penn State CAPS also has strong connections with many campus organizations including the Gender Equity Center, the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, 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 Consultation/Outreach Concentration.
In addition, there are ongoing cultural activities and programs throughout the year. The Distinguished Speakers Series has featured Michael Sam, Noor Tagouri, Sonia Nazario, 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, and the Lunar New Year Celebration. The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity also sponsors many events and activities designed to bring students, faculty, and staff together.
Penn State has approximately 60 religious groups on campus. The Pasquerilla Spiritual Center is a facility that serves as a home for all these groups.