With the move to remote learning, the University of Richmond’s Counseling and Psychological Services had to quickly figure out the best way to help students from afar.
“We really just dove right in on learning how to do this,” said Rachel Koch, a licensed clinical psychologist at CAPS. “We knew we had students to serve and we wanted to get things up and running as quickly as possible.”
CAPS had not used Zoom before the move to remote instruction, Koch said. They had also not used Therapy Assisted Online, a computer program that provides online behavioral health resources, as regularly as they are now, she said.
Staff members attended webinars about telehealth, the delivery of health-related services online, and the training focused on the ethics and confidentiality of remote therapy and how to effectively use it, Koch said.
“It was hard at first,” Koch said. “We had to learn things pretty quickly because we weren’t using the software we are now.”
CAPS staff members are unable to provide individual counseling sessions for UR students who do not live in Virginia because of state clinical psychology licensing laws, Koch said.
“We can only practice within [the state], which is unfortunate because we’re missing a really large population of students,” Koch said.
To compensate, CAPS is providing multiple ways for all students to receive the services they need. CAPS updated its website to help students find resources in their community and staff members can help connect students with service providers in their state, Koch said.
Well-being seminars, which started last fall, are still conducted daily but now on Zoom. These workshops are open to all students to help them learn and practice skills and also talk to CAPS clinicians.
Seminar topics include stress, relationships and emotions. CAPS also added seminars focusing on self-care and finding resources to address mental health challenges arising specifically because of COVID-19, Koch said.
Well-being seminars are recorded and will be available on the website for those who cannot join the Zoom sessions, said Amber Livingston, a master’s-level CAPS intern from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Livingston also said that CAPS staff will continue to provide free consultations with students.
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“We talk about what brings them to CAPS and what resources they need in order to be more successful,” Livingston said. “Sometimes that’s followed up with a wellbeing seminar or connecting them with community resources.”
Koch said CAPS clinicians had been hearing from students that social distancing was hard, so CAPS was hosting student-led Spider Web Parties to create more time for social connection.
CAPS interns are working to create spaces where students can connect with acquaintances in light of the challenges that come with social distancing, said Kristen Day, a licensed professional counselor at CAPS.
The Spider Web Party: Pet Edition, held on April 9, encouraged students to bring their pets on Zoom, Day said. CAPS is also planning a session for students to get together and perform music, she said.
“[The parties are] for any student,” Day said. “There’s nothing specifically clinical about it, but it’s a supportive space, and we’re trying to do it more of a social vibe but also a way to share their grief together.”
CAPS is also partnering with the Office of Alumni and Career Services to provide workshops on adjusting to the cancellation of jobs and internships and navigating the next steps in job searching.
“This will create a space where [students] can be able to process how difficult that is, and then how to bounce back and move forward,” Day said.
Koch said CAPS would continue to address issues raised by students. CAPS' website has a COVID-19 tab that is updated frequently, she said.
“We update our website every day, basically, with different kinds of resources, so if students aren’t able to meet with us or are unable to join the seminars there is a lot of information on our website,” Koch said.
Now that CAPS has become more comfortable using online resources, Koch said she was eager to see if the office could incorporate some of the techniques when students return to campus.
“I think it’s something we need to discuss further after all this is done and we’re back in the office,” Koch said. “Like, how we can learn from this experience and take some of the things we learned to apply it.”
CAPS staff members are discussing plans on what services they will provide once the semester ends, Koch said.
Contact contributor Olivia Tripodi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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