CAPS Provides New Opportunities for Mental Health Care

CAPS+Provides+New+Opportunities+for+Mental+Health+Care

Aneeza Ahmad and Aanika Patel

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) announced a new wave of mental health programs and resources in an email sent to students on Nov. 3 from Director of CAPS Wayne Assing. Assing also met with The Bates Student to discuss these changes. 

“We have exciting new opportunities at CAPS this semester, and I would like to take a moment to highlight the services we are offering to support student wellness and wellbeing,” Assing wrote in the email. “These initiatives will both expand the clinical options at CAPS and increase students’ access to mental health care.”

The new services include access to clinical groups that offer support on topics such as body acceptance, Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) belonging, chronic health conditions, coping with family dysfunction, the college first-year experience, international student experience, LGBTQIA+, understanding self and others and trans, non-binary and gender questioning support. 

“We know that mental health has been impacted by the pandemic due to issues of social isolation and due to a feeling of not having a more normal college experience,” Assing said. 

These programs aim to provide more support and service for students during what Assing describes as a period of, “coming back to a normal college experience.”

While these clinical groups address some issues of identity and belonging, some students have expressed a wish for more therapists of color. 

“I think it’s important to have therapists of color so that students of color can talk about issues of race,” Risa Horiuchi ’25 said. “Because those affect us a lot here at a primarily white institution.”

Horiuchi said she felt more comfortable talking about issues of race, microaggressions and feeling out of place at predominantly white institutions (PWI) with a therapist of color than with other therapists because of a shared level of understanding. 

Amherst College, another NESCAC school with a similar undergraduate student population to Bates, currently has 21 different counselors who provide mental health support to students in comparison to Bates’ six counselors. Some of Amherst’s counselors have specialized areas of focus including bilingual/international experience, interpersonal violence and traumatic stress and multicultural experiences some of which pertain to the BIPOC experience. 

Horiuchi acknowledged that Bates has one therapist of color and emphasized the need for more, especially considering the recent increase in racial diversity of the student population at Bates.

“Please more POC therapists, please, please, please,” Horiuchi said. “Maybe they’re hard to find here, but I would really appreciate that because it’s important for the mental health of our students of color.”

This being said, CAPS is hoping that outsourcing virtual counseling will allow students more access to BIPOC therapists and counselors. 

CAPS announced this virtual option for students seeking mental health care. They have partnered with UWill, a telehealth service, to offer students eight, free half-hour telehealth sessions this academic year to students residing in Maine. UWill’s mission is to “expand mental health access and services to colleges by building on technology-enabled models that have been validated in recent years,” according to their website. 

According to Assing, “Last year, [CAPS]  had a 32 percent utilization rate. And when you look at liberal arts schools—or schools that are 2500 or less—the utilization rate translates to about 15 percent. So we are, one might say, a high utilization campus. So students are asking for care and support.” UWill will hopefully provide more students with the opportunity to receive care. 

One student who tried UWill through Bates shared their experience but wished to remain anonymous.

“In my personal experience, I didn’t find the quality of healthcare I was looking for.” the student said. “I don’t think that necessarily reflects the entirety of UWill’s platform, but what I did experience was something very unprofessional. The provider was dismissing and patronizing and not interested in exploring or understanding or addressing the problems I brought up.”

Given that CAPS has only recently started referring students to UWill, Assing is hoping that students will provide feedback on their experiences to gauge the success of the resource. He said: “And, again, we’re open to getting feedback from people who use us or use UWill.” He continued, “All of these things are, you know, just different ways to access care treatment.”

The student also spoke about the benefits and shortcomings of being able to customize the provider through UWill. 

“I think the cool thing about UWill that Bates Health Services might not offer is the fact that you can customize the race or gender etc., even ethnicity or language of your provider,” the student said. “That’s an upside, but even then, I wasn’t able to find the provider that matched the identities that I was looking for.”

Students can also connect with a long-term therapist through Thriving Campus outside of the free therapy Bates offers, according to the email. Thriving Campus is a service for college students to find available therapists in their community using their health insurance. 

“With all of these services available, we hope you access the resources that you feel comfortable with and most suit your needs for wellness and support,” Assing wrote. “We look forward to working with you throughout the rest of this academic year, and we hope you continue to seek opportunities and connections on campus where you find joy and support.”

Students can find more information on student mental health support here. CAPS can be contacted by calling (207) 786-6200 or emailing [email protected]