Staying Connected: Mindfulness & Mental Health Resources

In 2020, HSU students logged in from bedrooms, kitchens, and dorm rooms to get mental health support and stay connected through HSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) remote programming.

An essential resource for student wellness, CAPS quickly pivoted to offer individual and group counseling via Zoom as the global pandemic unfolded last Spring. While many colleges across the country have paused counseling services until in-person learning commences, CAPS encourages HSU students to take advantage of the variety and depth of their remote group workshops this Spring.

“Our workshops have been really meaningful for people,” explains staff psychotherapist Ned Peck, who coordinates groups and workshops for CAPS. “The pandemic has left lots of people feeling isolated and disconnected. Group therapy offers a way to connect.”

Peck says that while some students are uncomfortable using a remote platform, others described the sessions as the cornerstone of their week. In addition to group therapy, CAPS offers one-on-one short-term counseling and provides crisis and referral services, all via Zoom.

The transition to online services introduced new challenges for CAPS, such as how to maintain confidentiality when logging in from home. But Peck explains that going remote adds value to group therapy for those who struggle with social anxiety.

“For some, joining a group session remotely actually feels safer,” says Peck. “They’re joining from the comfort of their own home and don’t have the burden of presenting to everyone in a physical room.” He explains that many students with anxiety face prohibitive barriers to accessing CAPS in-person, especially in group settings.

A drawback of remote sessions is missing out on the positive bio-feedback of other people’s energy. But until it’s safe to offer in-person services again, Peck stresses that it’s critical for students to have resources to deal with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

“Hearing other people’s experiences with universal issues is so therapeutic,” says Peck. “We see a lot of connections being made and students supporting one another just by sharing their stories about life in the pandemic.”

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Counseling & Psychological Services provides mental health services for students.
A popular therapy group last Fall was “Managing Anxiety, Maximizing Wellness” with staff psychologist Shane Calhoun. He explains that anxiety has been an issue for many students with the stressors of the pandemic and the cultural upheaval of 2020. A weekly hour-long workshop, “Managing Anxiety, Maximizing Wellness” focuses on learning cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools like emotional regulation and recognizing negative thought patterns.

“Shifting to Zoom actually allowed a lot of new students to register and learn methods to cope with anxiety,” says Calhoun. “In our sessions, students share what they’ve gotten out of the group, maybe a trick or a tool. It’s so healing to help others by sharing your personal struggles.”

Another new and popular series, “Avenge Distorted Thoughts”, will be led by staff psychotherapist Lisa Turay again this Spring. In the three-session workshop, Turay uses a superhero theme from the Marvel comic Avengers to teach CBT. She explains that a helpful application for CBT is when someone catastrophizes a situation.

“For example, you get a bad score on an exam and think, ‘I’m going to fail,’” explains Turay. Using CBT, Turay teaches students to understand that thoughts drive feelings and feelings drive behaviors. She says that by reorganizing thoughts, people can learn to change their actions and create positive new behavior patterns.

With the many personal and societal changes caused by COVID-19,
CAPS stresses that simple tools like CBT can be incredibly effective as a coping strategy.

CAPS knows that more change is on the horizon this Spring with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. In response, CAPS is offering a “Breaking Isolation” process group to support students with the eventual transition out of distance learning and social isolation.

“A lot of us have been in survival mode during the pandemic,” Peck explains. “Our system intentionally dampens our feelings so that we can function through hard times.”

But Peck emphasizes that CAPS isn’t just for hard times.

“We’re here to support students through everyday life,” says Peck. “We have so many different types of services: Individual counseling, single session therapy, “Web In Wednesday” (same day appointments), harm reduction for drug and alcohol use, group sessions for coping with a wide range of life challenges , or simply helping students stay connected to their peers and stay emotionally balanced. We’re here for HSU students.”

For more information about CAPS remote services, please visit counseling.humboldt.edu. For counseling services, including 24-hour phone support, call 707-826-3236. For mental health emergencies, call the Humboldt County Crisis line at (707) 445-7715 or dial 911.