Below is a list of frequently asked questions that CAPS often receives from the university community. We have attempted to answer each question as best we can. If the specific question that you have is not below, please feel free to contact the CAPS office at (847) 491-2151.
What services does CAPS provide?
At CAPS, you can receive a variety of mental health services and supports. These include group therapy, skills workshops (e.g., mindfulness, managing emotions, relationship skills, etc.), help getting connected to services outside of CAPS, support during times of crisis, and individual therapy. Our ongoing in-house services tend to be offered in a shorter-term model. You and the counselor you speak with during your first meeting with us will determine which of our services is the best match for your needs.
Who is eligible for services at CAPS?
As a Northwestern student, you are eligible for mental health consultation, crisis support, and assistance connecting to services outside of CAPS.
If you are currently enrolled full-time in an undergraduate, graduate, or professional program outside of the School of Professional Studies, you are eligible for ongoing therapy at CAPS if you and your counselor determine that would best meet your needs.
How do I make an appointment?
Evanston students can make an appointment by calling our main phone line and requesting a “Same Day Appointment.” Another option, students can also schedule an initial assessment online through our website. These appointments can be booked up to two weeks in advance.
Chicago students can schedule an initial assessment online through our website. Additionally, students can call for a crisis appointment if they would like to speak with a clinician.
What can I expect from my first appointment?
During your Initial Assessment, you will first be asked to complete some questionnaires that your therapist will use to help focus your discussion and to gather information needed to make recommendations to you about next steps. At the beginning of the meeting, your therapist will talk to you about what you can expect regarding confidentiality, answer any questions you have about our services, and tell you more about the purpose of the meeting. During your discussion with the therapist, you will be asked to describe your reasons for seeking services. Your therapist will also likely ask some follow-up questions along the way and a variety of other standard questions. All information gathered in this process is used to help make recommendations for how best to address your concerns. Towards the end of the meeting, your therapist will review options for addressing your concerns and their recommendations for you. You and your counselor will work together to determine which option(s) are best suited for you and to put a plan in place to initiate the option(s) you selected.
How long do I have to wait to get an appointment?
In Evanston, students can book an appointment the same day if they call during regular business hours by using our Same Day Access Service. If students prefer to schedule a specific appointment date and time, they will generally have a longer wait as these appointments are in high demand and tend to book quickly.
In Chicago, students can schedule initial assessment appointment online. Students can typically find an appointment within a week. If you have difficulty finding an available appointment that works for your schedule, please call our office to discuss other options.
What if I am in crisis and need to talk to someone right away?
CAPS will always have someone available for a student who is in crisis. If a student is experiencing a crisis during normal business hours they can either call or come into CAPS to speak with a clinician right away. If it is after-hours or during the weekend and a student is experiencing a crisis, they can call our main line 847.491.2151 and Press “0” to be connected with our after-hours on-call service. Once a student connects with this service, they will be asked a few questions to determine the urgency of their concerns. Urgency is generally determined by the presence of safety concerns. Depending on urgency, students will either be immediately connected to a counselor or will be placed into a queue to speak with the next available counselor. CAPS staff receive reports detailing contacts students have with this service, which allows them to follow up with students to offer additional support.
Once connected, the counselor will ask you a few questions to determine the nature of the crisis and to help make a plan for how best to help you. The goal is for counselors to help students restore a sense of safety. Most often this can be accomplished by talking it through. However, if the situation includes a likely possibility of someone being harmed in the near future, the counselor may have to take additional actions. These actions may include reaching out to emergency contacts and initiating an evaluation for psychiatric hospitalization. Police involvement is always viewed as a last resort.
Does CAPS have a limit on the number of sessions a student can be seen?
CAPS does not have a session limit, although we do work from a brief therapy model in which most students are seen on average between 6-8 sessions. It is important that students know that the number of sessions that any student receives is based on the needs of that student as well as the collaborative decision that the student and their therapist make regarding their needs.
How much does CAPS cost?
CAPS does not charge students for services. However, it is important to know that if you are referred to an outside provider, there may be costs associated with those services depending on insurance coverage. Additionally, if students are prescribed medication from one of our psychiatrists, there may be a cost associated with filling those prescriptions at your pharmacy, again dependent upon insurance coverage.
There is NO FEE associated with any of the services provided by CAPS.
What is CAPS policy on confidentiality?
The information you share at CAPS (even the fact that you use CAPS services) is strictly confidential in accordance with Illinois law. This means that we cannot disclose your information or even confirm whether or not you use our services to anyone without your written permission.
The only exceptions to this are if the information you share with us suggests that there is an imminent risk of harm to you or someone else or that a child, elderly person, disabled person, or otherwise vulnerable person is being abused. There may also be times when a court order would compel us to share the information you have provided to us. We will attempt to notify you if we would be required to share your information with anyone without your written consent.
Your records at CAPS are kept separate from your educational records. The only people who have access to these records are CAPS staff members and select IT personnel who help us maintain our record system.
Will my parents, faculty, and/or others be informed I am going to CAPS?
We will only inform your parents, faculty, or others that you are using CAPS services if you give us written permission to do so.
Can CAPS help me find a therapist off-campus?
Yes, CAPS is happy to help you connect to a therapist off-campus. We will speak with you about the type of services and providers you are hoping to connect with and provide you with a list of potential providers in the community. We can give you some suggestions about how to find a good match for you and the types of questions that may be helpful for you to ask when speaking with a potential therapist. We also have an online searchable provider database on our website.
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
These are two different, but related disciplines in the mental health field. Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors who have specialized in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. They have the ability to prescribe medications and to conduct specialized assessments to treat more complex mental health disorders. Psychologists specialize in the treatment of mental health concerns primarily through “traditional” psychotherapy treatments and assessments.
Does CAPS provide psychiatric medication?
CAPS does not dispense psychiatric medication. CAPS psychiatrists can prescribe medication which can be obtained at various pharmacies.
I think my friend should talk to someone at CAPS. What should I do?
It can be difficult to talk to a friend about coming to CAPS. It is important to be sensitive to your friend and empathic about what they are going through. In addition to being willing to listen and being empathic to your friend, it can be helpful to be direct about the reasons you are concerned about them. These conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable, but many people describe a sense of relief after someone has expressed their concern for them.
It is often helpful to encourage them to seek assistance from a professional clinician or someone who is more equipped to help them with their issue. Sometimes it can be helpful to share one’s own experience of going to therapy to help a friend realize that this is a step that they are able to take for themselves as well. Sometimes offering to be with someone when they take that first step can be extremely helpful. It is often a good idea to follow up to see how things went when they connected with CAPS (or another mental health provider). This will give you an opportunity to offer support, normalize your friend’s decision to seek help, and help them try again if they talked themselves out of following through with their initial plan.
Finally, if you have serious concerns about your friend’s wellbeing, it is important that you share those concerns with someone. There are many options for this. You can talk to someone in your friend’s family if you know how to reach them. You can talk to a member of your residence hall staff. You can also call CAPS and ask to speak with a counselor who will help you make a plan for how to support your friend.
How do I know whether I should utilize CAPS services?
You may benefit from seeking support from CAPS if you are experiencing significant mental or emotional distress that you would consider to be out of proportion to the events in your life, that has persisted for a period of time that is longer than what you would consider normal, or that is causing significant impairment in your ability to function in an area of your life. Many people also benefit from mental health services following a traumatic event of loss in their life.
Our online mental health screening may be a useful tool to help you determine if your experiences would benefit from seeking therapy.
It is important that you reach out to us or another mental health provider if you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else.
I am going or am considering going on study abroad, what should I do to prepare for dealing with my emotional and mental health while abroad?
Studying abroad can be an exciting experience. Like many exciting moments in our lives, they can come with extra stressors, that can complicate existing, or trigger new, mental health concerns. With some advanced planning, most students can prevent their mental health concerns from interfering with the quality of their study abroad experience.
If you are currently working with a mental health provider, we encourage you to discuss your plans with your therapist and/or psychiatrist as soon as you begin thinking about going abroad. They can help you develop a plan for managing your mental health concerns while away. They can also assist you in determining whether you will need mental health services where you are going and how to best arrange them. If you are taking medications to manage your mental health concerns, they can help you make a plan to continue your medication while out of the country.
If you are not currently engaged in mental health services but have concerns about your mental health concerns returning while abroad, we would encourage you to reach out to a previous provider who knows you well to discuss your plans. If you have not previously used mental health services or do not have access to a previous provider, you can reach out to CAPS for this support.
Does CAPS perform Wellness checks on students?
Generally, CAPS counselors do not perform wellness checks. If there is a situation where we have concerns about the safety of a student currently using CAPS services, we will reach out to the student using the contact information that was provided to us. If we have urgent (imminent and life-threatening) concerns about the safety of a student using our services, we may collaborate with others on campus (a student’s emergency contact, campus partners with whom we have a release of information on file, Student Health Service – if the student is known to be using this service, and in rare situations, NUPD) to ensure their safety. CAPS clients can set up a safety plan with their counselors to indicate who they would like contacted in emergency situations. It is rare that CAPS will contact anyone without you knowing about it. It is even rarer that we will contact another person or entity without your written consent. This action is reserved for situations in which there are strong indications that a student’s safety is currently at risk. This means we have reason to believe that actions that would result in life-threatening harm have already begun or is about to start.
If a concerned friend, family member, or NU employee shares information that raises concerns about the welfare of a student who is not using CAPS services, we will direct that person to consult with Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS) who can help determine the best way to ensure that everyone is safe.
Can I arrange a time to interview a member of the CAPS staff for a class assignment or for a news article?
We strive throughout the year to prioritize client care and outreach programming. Unfortunately, due to current service demands, we are unable to accommodate requests to interview CAPS staff for class assignments. Please note that our website contains a great deal of information about our services, resources for students, etc. Other helpful resources may include the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, the Jed Foundation, the Steve Fund, Active Minds, and NAMI.
Requests for interviews related to news articles should be directed to the Office of Global Marketing and Communications.