Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at U of T: an insider’s perspective


What does this word mean to you? Do you believe that it works? Do you feel queasy when you consider getting help for your overall well-being in this manner?

Many of my friends who are also in the “hardcore” Life Science programs, like neuroscience or molecular biology, seem to have a hard time coming to terms with the validity of this practice (actually, often even just the general field of psychology). If they really need to, they go see a psychiatrist, because this person is an M.D., and our lives are their life’s work.

I don’t blame them: even I had a bit of trouble putting my faith in “talk therapy” not too long ago. I was by no means sure if I’d feel comfortable revealing my entire life’s history to a complete stranger, showing emotions that I hardly ever show to anyone else, and saying things that I’m always reluctant to say–I know that as soon as I articulate my thoughts out loud, my fears will be confirmedĀ as real.

I believe it was Heather, our alumni UpbeaTer, who told me that getting counselling outside of U of T is actually ridiculously expensive. CAPS, on the other hand, offers to U of T students a certain number of consultations and therapy sessions free of charge (well, it’s all included in our tuition fees). As I mentioned in a previous post on maintaining good mental health, this service is actually very popular among U of T students, and the waiting list is quite long.

To de-mystify this therapeutic experience, this past week I decided to take the opportunity and try out a session, just to see what it’s like.

Well….let me tell you: IT WAS AMAZING. My appointment was at the wee hour of 9 in the morning (I know!); I was so excited and anxious the night before that I couldn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m. When I arrived at the CAPS office, I swiped my T-card at a station to sign in, then took a seat in the waiting area and proceeded to stare awkwardly into empty space. My counsellor called me in soon enough.

He led me into a private office, introduced himself, and asked me to sign the CAPS service agreement. Then for an hour, he asked me questions while rapidly taking down page after page of notes, and basically, nodded and listened all the way.

I found that it was the first time I didn’t feel guilty “ranting” to someone and taking up his or her valuable time: he was showering me with so much attention that I felt almost a sense of entitlement. So I spoke freely, let my thoughts run and my feelings flow. I received no clear cut solution to the problems in my life, but I did feel as if a huge load had been taken off my shoulders. The whole experience was surprisingly comforting, especially since he did not actually take up any methods of intervention (not that this is ordinarily a part of a first-time consultation). It was, simply put, happy hour, guilty pleasure, and most importantly, me-time.

I guess the message I want to get across is this: don’t overlook any health-related services on campus. It’s true that you might not desperately need it at this very moment, but nevertheless, it’s help, and any help will inevitably make your life easier. After all, the school wouldn’t be spending money on it if the service wasn’t in demand in the first place.

Try your best to explore all the amazing services that the school offers to you when you are still a student, because trust me, there will come a day when these tools will no longer be at your fingertips. Since I’m graduating soon, this day is frighteningly near, and on many levels, I wish I had experienced and done more as an undergrad at U of T.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Take good care of yourself by following a simple list below, and happy Reading Week!

– Lucy

10 Steps to Enhancing Mental Health:

  1. Learn to manage stress effectively.
  2. Create a reasonable budget and live within your means.
  3. Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet and get regular exercise and adequate sleep.
  4. Get involved with your community.
  5. Create strategies to cope with change.
  6. Try to develop positive relationships, whether they be family, friends or intimate.
  7. Give and accept help.
  8. Acknowledge and learn how to deal with your emotions/moods.
  9. Build a healthy self-esteem.
  10. –>Finally, remember to reward yourself along the way!

(Taken from Promoting Mental Health, CAPS University of Toronto)

3 comments on “Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at U of T: an insider’s perspective

  1. This is an excellent piece regarding counselling. This also goes for those students who do too much and should probably take a step back. Reflection is necessary; counselling permits one to do that. This is also important for those U of T student leaders who have too much on their plate.

  2. Awesome post, Lucy.

    I think a lot of students feel overwhelmed at U of T, and the stereotyping of “getting help” can really discourage students. Great job for dispelling that type of thinking. CAPS is a great resource for students, and we should all take advantage of it.

    – Fariya

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