A wood door to Watkins Room 2100 has a sign that reads 'Counseling and Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.)

The University of Kansas' Counseling and Psychological Services has moved appointments to be conducted over the telephone. 

The University of Kansas’ Counseling and Psychological Services will suspend in-person services with patients effective immediately to comply with social distancing instruction.

Patients seeking therapy and psychiatry appointments for this coming week are suspended, but CAPS is working on a process to resume appointments as soon as possible, according to the CAPS website. 

CAPS is contacting students who have individual therapy appointments and psychiatric followups scheduled to inform them of this change, CAPS psychologist Michael Maestas said in an email to the Kansan.  

Telephone lines are available for established therapy and psychiatric clients to discuss options for appointments. The Headquarters Counseling Center’s phone number is available for students in need of therapy specifically from therapists at CAPS. 

Maestas said Zoom appointments are not available. He suggests unestablished students contact CAPS to discuss options for care.  

“For the students with whom we’ve had contact, most are coping well with this and taking advantage of resources as appropriate,” Maestas said. 

Junior Megan Londeen said she started attending CAPS this semester every two to three weeks. Now, she’s had to resort to phone calls for therapy. By moving her therapy sessions into her bedroom, Londeen said she doesn’t feel as safe as she did back at Watkins.  

“Sometimes your room doesn’t feel like a safe space,” Londeen said. 

Senior Shysta Pandey said without seeing her therapist every week with a mandated time and place, she’s felt slightly more unstable than she would with her normal in-person routine. 

“It’s been slightly different obviously because you can’t see your therapist, so it’s kind of hard to gauge emotional reaction,” Pandey said. “I think my therapist does a good job of trying to get through that barrier. She encourages me to talk a lot, so it’s a lot of expressing how I feel like I would in a normal therapy session, but more amped up.”

Wait times for appointments have increased 20 minutes with an automated voice keeping track of how much time is left. Londeen said she’s only had to wait that long two or three times. 

“It’s hit or miss, but usually it’s not that long all the time,” Londeen said. “They’re really good at what they do, so I don’t mind the wait if I really need to talk to somebody. I know other students might not like that.”

Londeen said CAPS refers students with serious inquiries or who are uncomfortable with the wait time to contact 911 or the suicide hotline.

Besides the phone call therapy sessions, Londeen said she has surrounded herself with loved ones who encourage and support her during this self-quarantine period. Londeen said the downside of seeking comfort from loved ones is miscommunication. 

“I’m trying to surround myself with people that make sure that I’m OK, but CAPS therapists are a third party,” Londeen said. “You know that they’re knowledgeable and are here to help you. Your family or your boyfriend can say things to you that sometimes [don’t] sound right, or they can get angry at you. But you know that your therapist is there for you and there to help you 24/7.”

The process of obtaining approval for medication refills for unestablished psychiatric patients is still unclear. CAPS recommends psychiatric clients to call for psychiatric followups or concerns about their options for care, according to the CAPS website. Londeen said she was not given any information besides a referral to Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. 

“I was supposed to have a [psychiatric] meeting, but all in-person meetings were canceled,” Londeen said. “I needed a psychiatrist at Watkins to approve that I needed a refill, and we can’t do that over the phone. That’s the one thing I’m freaking out about. I need a refill, but I don’t know how to go about doing it.”

As an established patient at CAPS, Pandey has continued meetings with her CAPS psychiatrist over the phone. Pandey said her refill approvals are conducted over the phone with no need for meeting in person. 

“It would have been helpful if CAPS sent out an email [about this process], I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t,” Pandey said. “I’m sure there are a lot of patients who are experiencing mental health difficulties that are amplified by social distancing.” 

When asked about what options there are for students, Maestas directed students to the CAPS website. Listed at the bottom of its website, CAPS recommends students stay informed and “reach out to family and friends for support, and engage in your usual healthy coping strategies."

—Edited by Elise Lindemann