Students come to college knowing they may face challenges such as finding a job or getting good grades, but it is normal to hope for the best. They hope to have the best roommates, the best experience and the best time of their lives.
However, most students are unaware of the mental challenges they could face such as anxiety, depression, trauma, or feel surprised by how much these issues impact their school experience. When students encounter such obstacles in their life, it’s hard to know what to do.
Curtis Hill, Director of the Counseling and Psychological Services alongside his team of seven counselors and three doctoral interns are here to help students succeed.
After earning a Bachelors’s Degree in Psychology from Weber State, Hill went on to earn a master’s degree in general psychology and a Ph.D in counseling psychology from BYU.
After Hill completed his internship in 2001, then- SUU dean of students Neal Cox reached out to Hill and asked him if he would be interested in coming to SUU and creating a counseling center.
At that time, SUU had around 5,000 students and only one on-campus counselor.
For the first two years of his job Hill, alongside CAPS Clinical Director, De Nean Peterson, worked tirelessly to decide what a counseling center would look like on SUU’s campus.
“[Peterson and I] changed the narrative of what college counseling is,” said Hill. “At the time, there was a lot of stigma about mental health stuff — there still is, but 20 years ago there was a lot more stigma. So we worked on reducing stigma and providing outreach services and developmental services for other offices on campus.”
Over the past 19 years, CAPS has increasingly become busier and busier. CAPS now helps 700-800 students every year, or about 10% of the student population in direct clinical services.
Hill describes college counseling centers as an essential part of a safe and healthy campus. The efforts of the counselors are shown through the retention rates.
“If [a student] starts having severe mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety. Then those issues trump your other efforts in school. It’s hard to pay attention in class, it’s hard to go to class. It’s hard to function on an efficient enough level to be a successful college student. CAPS … helps students overcome barriers that get in the way of being good students.”
Since every situation is different, CAPS has a variety of services for students to choose from. The services include individual counseling, group counseling, couples counseling, biofeedback and psychiatric services.
Although Hill does not think that every student needs to come to CAPS, he does believe a good majority of students can benefit from it.
“If a student runs into a prolonged situation, I feel like [counseling] is meaning. O if they run into something unexpected or really traumatic that turns their world upside down and has a lasting effect, counseling would be beneficial.”
According to Hill, stats both on a local and national level suggest that 20-30% of college ages students could benefit greatly from counseling.
Two years ago, Hill conducted an in-depth study of the students that were going to counseling at CAPS. Hill found that almost 60% of the students had some sort clinically significant trauma in their background.
One of the most rewarding parts of Hill’s job is watching the change in the students he works with.
“A lot of people grow up in situations that are less than ideal and suffer abuse or neglect. It’s very natural and healthy as you come into adulthood to have the freedom to make choices and rectify some of that stuff… It is really fun to work with people in counseling to understand how the past affects the present and their future. To help empower students to help them find effective ways to not only deal with the past but to make meaningful and empowered decisions in the present.”
There are eleven counselors at CAPS, it takes approximately six weeks to get in to see a counselor. CAPS offers several options to choose from while students are on the waitlist.
The first is group therapy/pre-counseling workshops. In this group, students do not have to disclose important information. According to Hill, they are “skill-based groups that help students get ready for counseling”.
If students are in a dire or extreme situation, they can contact CAPS main phone number to request help immediately. There are crisis hours available every day at CAPS. If a situation arises after-hours, there are 24 hour crisis lines available on the CAPS website and all students have access to a licensed mental health counselor on the phone or via text through the SafeUT App.
A newer option students can participate in is “Let’s Talk” CAPS counselors go to different offices on campus to coach and give students advice in the form of a brief consultation that give students the chance to talk and articulate their feelings.
Hill encourages everyone to, “Come in, take a chance with a counselor and work on different areas of your life.”
A student can either go directly to the CAPS building is located on 136 W. University Blvd (Center St.) or call them at (435)-865-8621.
Story by: Cassidy Harmon
Photo Courtesy of Counseling and Psychological Services