Students seeking therapy from BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services are facing longer-than-average wait times to meet with counselors, and CAPS staff are encouraging students to address their mental health with lesser-known campus resources.
CAPS employee Jaela Heath said the current wait for students to see a counselor is between 6 to 8 weeks, which she said is normal for this time of year. She said there is usually an increase in the number of students who would like to see therapists as the semester winds down, but because of the holiday breaks and finals week, the office is not operating on a full schedule.
The influx of demand combined with the limited operating schedule forces CAPS to put new patients on the waitlist until there is an opening, according to Heath.
Fellow CAPS employee Kaylie Herdman said there are a number of reasons more students want to visit CAPS this time of year.
“Students are feeling particularly stressed with the holiday season and these difficult exams and projects they have,” she said.
Herdman advised students to join the CAPS waitlist and begin the process of meeting with a mental health professional before crises and stressors arise so they can be prepared rather than overwhelmed.
“The best time to get in the waitlist is when the semester first starts so you can set yourself up for success,” she said.
Heath said students who have a more immediate need for mental health support can schedule a one-time consultation. These 30-minute consultations are scheduled within a week of being requested.
“What the case managers can do is help students find clinicians or therapy in the area to find someone who will be a good fit for them,” Heath said. “I will say that typically the waitlists in the community are also pretty long. If that’s a concern, bring it up in case management and they can try and help you find someone who can meet sooner rather than later.”
Additionally, CAPS offers walk-in services from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students can also call the CAPS office at (801) 422-3035 for immediate assistance, whether it be after hours, on the weekends or on a holiday.
Herdman also recommended CAPS’s group therapy, which offers a variety of structured and unstructured groups for general needs and more specific focuses, such as reconciling faith and sexuality, anxiety, and body image and eating concerns.
Herdman said the CAPS biofeedback and stress management services are particularly helpful for those dealing with stress, anxiety and depression because it trains students to mitigate the physiological symptoms of those disorders.
Students who are willing to wait until a CAPS therapist has an opening will need to fill out the CAPS intake paperwork and call the office to schedule an appointment. Once an appointment is scheduled, students can expect to meet with a CAPS therapist for a total of 7 sessions.
The higher numbers of students trying to see therapists could be attributed to seasonal affective disorder, which is “a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
SAD is often triggered by waning daylight hours in the fall and winter. CAPS psychologists have previously encouraged students struggling with SAD to increase their sunlight exposure early in the day, maintain an exercise routine and include Omega-3 supplements in their diets.
Apart from that advice, the CAPS website also includes helpful information and tips on what students can do at home to take care of their mental health. Their website has pages on stress management, self help and ways to help and support fellow students.
BYU student Spencer Shields said it is especially important for students to take care of their mental health.
“Mental health plays a large factor in motivation, which affects education,” he said.
Taking care of personal mental health does not have to be difficult; Shields said he simply meditates when he can to improve his mental health during stressful times.
“It helps me to calm down, calm my anxiety, just clear my head,” he said.
Anyone facing an immediate mental health crisis can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the UNI CrisisLine at (801) 587-3000 or visit their nearest emergency room.