Counseling Services

Photo by Lee Attwood.

Table of Contents

Overview of Services

CAPS services include groups, workshops, brief individual therapy, Let's Talk drop-in consultations, crisis intervention, referrals, couples counseling, educational outreach (e.g., through workshops, our newsletter, and social media), consultation for non-clients (e.g., staff, faculty, family members), and limited ADHD testing. CAPS also includes Psychiatry Services (psychotropic medication services), volunteer programs for UCSC students (Peer Education Program and Student Advisory Board), and training for doctoral-level psychology interns and postdoctoral fellows.

The most commonly used service at CAPS is an initial consultation where we get information about what you need and your history and then make recommendations for next steps.

Eligibility for Services

All currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students at the University of California at Santa Cruz are eligible to utilize CAPS services. Unfortunately, students participating in UC Extension are not eligible for CAPS services. Note that CAPS provides a range of services (groups, workshops, individual and couples counseling, crisis services, psychiatry, referrals), and our center operates using a "brief therapy model," meaning that typically if we provide individual counseling, it entails just up to a handful of sessions rather than long-term or ongoing counseling. Due to high demand, there is no guarantee of a particular length of service or type of service at CAPS.

Off-Campus vs. On-Campus Services

Sometimes off-campus therapy is your best option to address a particular concern or meet your individual needs. Off-campus therapy provides several advantages over therapy on campus through CAPS:

  • Off campus, you may be able to see a therapist on evenings or weekends, which is not currently possible on campus.
  • Off campus, you typically have more flexibility to see a therapist for as long as you need or want. This is particularly beneficial when you have longstanding or complex issues, such as severe depression, complicated family issues, trauma, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and drug and alcohol addction—you can generally make more progress on such issues when you are able to continue in therapy for longer than is typical on campus. Furthermore, some students just prefer open-ended rather than brief therapy.
  • Off campus, you often have more choice in the therapist you see, as there are many local therapists (often just one bus ride away), a number of whom accept UCSC's insurance plan (SHIP).
  • Off campus, some services are available that are not available on campus, such as intensive outpatient and inpatient treatment for mental illness, eating disorders, and substance use disorders and comprehensive psychological or educational testing.
  • At many times during the academic year, CAPS receives more requests for counseling services than we can address in a timely way, which can result in a wait time for some services; off campus, the wait time to begin counseling may be shorter, so you can get the help you need sooner.
  • You may prefer seeing an off-campus therapist for other reasons, such as when you live off campus.

See our off-campus therapy page for more info and tips, including a searchable database of local therapists. CAPS staff can also provide you with information about the types of off-campus counseling services that are available and how to connect with them. Call CAPS at (831) 459-2628 or stop by during business hours (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.) to schedule an initial appointment, during which we can assess your needs and discuss your options.

Making a First Appointment

The primary way to make a first-time appointment is to call CAPS at (831) 459-2628 or stop by our Central Office (Health Center, East Wing, 2nd floor) during business hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. One of our front office staff will assist you in scheduling an initial assessment appointment with one of our counseling staff, usually within a few days.

Note that CAPS does not currently offer drop-in counseling sessions. We do provide same-day crisis assessments when warranted. If you are looking to talk to a professional counselor about a problem on a one-time drop-in basis or have questions about CAPS, mental health, or other related topics and are not in crisis, our Let's Talk drop-in consultation service, which is held several days a week in fall, winter, and spring at various locations around campus, may meet your needs.


Information that you communicate to a CAPS therapist is confidential. The fact that you are seeing a CAPS therapist does not appear on any academic records. Your identity is kept confidential from anyone outside of CAPS/Student Health Center. Please note, however, that in a professional counseling agency such as CAPS, staff may consult with each other as well as UCSC Health Center clinicians as needed regarding their clients in order to provide the best coordinated care. We are also required to keep information on whom we see, their year in college, their ethnicity, and other demographic data. This statistical information is necessary for our yearly funding. Your right to confidentiality is protected by law. However, there are certain circumstances regarding life-threatening situations in which confidentiality may not be protected. These situations are child and elder abuse, suicide, homicide, and cases involving individuals who are gravely disabled and unable to care for themselves. In such cases, a CAPS staff member may be legally required to report to other outside agencies (when appropriate) the minimal necessary information obtained during any CAPS counseling visit. Except in these situations, information communicated to CAPS cannot be released outside of our agency without a student’s permission. If you would like further information on this subject, the CAPS staff member with whom you are working can provide it for you.

E-mail Policy

E-mail is not an appropriate medium for contacting CAPS staff members for personal counseling and relaying other private information. Unfortunately, e-mail is not always confidential and cannot be guaranteed to be an effective or timely means of communication. Thus, CAPS does not use email to communicate with clients, other than to send an automatically generated appointment reminder. If you need to contact CAPS staff, please call the Central Office at (831) 459-2628 or the individual staff person's office. If you have already received a secure message from CAPS through Health e-Messenger, you can reply to this message. However, note that the person receiving the message may not see it right away, so in an urgent situation, it is always best to call the main CAPS number for assistance, or call 911 in an emergency.

Individual Counseling

One-on-one brief counseling is available to currently registered UCSC undergraduate and graduate students. Generally, this entails one or more (up to a handful) sessions per academic year. How long your therapy lasts depends on discussions with your therapist about your specific concerns. In some cases, CAPS staff will recommend open-ended counseling off campus rather than brief counseling at CAPS, or we may refer you to services other than individual counseling on or off campus, depending on what we feel will best meet your needs. Due to high demand, there is no guarantee of a particular length of service or type of service at CAPS.

Counseling, also known as therapy, is a process by which you can learn to make better decisions, improve your personal skills, develop increased confidence, and gain a better understanding of your needs and the needs of others. Counseling can also help you deal with emotional and behavioral problems. It is important to develop a trusting relationship with your therapist so you can feel comfortable discussing your feelings and issues with them. Outcomes of counseling can include gaining a better understanding of yourself, developing plans to make changes in your behavior, and skill development. It is important for you to be an active participant both during your counseling sessions and outside of counseling so that change and growth can occur.

Groups and Workshops

Counseling groups and educational workshops are available in fall, winter, and spring quarters (and occasionally during summer on a very limited basis) and are advertised each quarter. Based on your initial assessment appointment, we may recommend one of these services.


Groups provide opportunities for you to explore personal issues with a professional counselor who facilitates the group and with other group members to develop awareness, insight, and interpersonal skills. Many students who seek our services have difficulties that involve relating to other people in one way or another, and because of this, we believe that group therapy is one of the most effective types of services we offer. Participants in groups can benefit from the mutual support and learning that occurs from interaction with others who have similar concerns or experiences.

CAPS offers a variety of specialized groups each quarter on topics such as anxiety, depression, mindfulness, eating issues, and more. See our Groups page for more information and check out the CAPS Calendar at the beginning of every quarter for the current schedule.


CAPS’ educational workshops cover a variety of topics, such as managing stress, study and test-taking skills, and mindfulness. We offer several one-time workshops and workshop series throughout the academic year, led by either CAPS professional staff or trained peer educators. Check out our CAPS Calendar for the current schedule and our Facebook page for updates on workshops and other events.

CAPS is also available to provide workshops on many topics as requested by staff (including student staff, such as RAs) or faculty. If there is a particular workshop you'd like us to offer your group, please call us at (831) 459-2628. Please contact us at least 3 weeks before the desired date of the workshop to give us time to coordinate with you and to prepare.

Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is available to UCSC undergraduate and graduate students on a limited basis, depending on counselor availability. At least one member of the couple must be a registered UCSC student. CAPS may also offer family counseling on a limited basis if one member of the family is a UCSC student.

Crisis Services

Daytime crisis services are available in person or by phone during business hours (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.): Students experiencing a crisis can call (831) 459-2628 for assistance or come to the CAPS Central Office at the Student Health Center. Staff, faculty, or loved ones concerned about a UCSC student who may be in crisis can also call us at (831) 459-2628 or stop by during business hours for a consultation.

After-hours CAPS Crisis Services are available by phone to UCSC students or others (e.g., friends, family members, staff, faculty) concerned about a UCSC student for psychological crisis assessment, consultation, and intervention during evening and weekend hours and on holidays when the CAPS office is closed. Those seeking this service can call (831) 459-2628 and follow the automated menu for assistance connecting with a live counselor.

Please see our crisis page for more information and crisis resources.

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger of harm to self or others, call 911.

Let's Talk

CAPS offers drop-in consultations several days a week during fall, winter, and spring when school is in session at various locations around campus for students who would benefit from a short, informal conversation with a professional counselor. These consultations can provide support, advice, and/or information, depending on your needs. Our Let's Talk page provides more details.

ADHD Information

CAPS provides limited counseling and other services to students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In order to be prescribed ADHD medication through CAPS or a clinician at the Student Health Center (SHS), you must have undergone recent, comprehensive ADHD testing by a psychologist and be able to provide CAPS or SHS with the testing report and other information. CAPS provides ADHD testing on a limited basis. If our testing services are not appropriate to meet your needs or CAPS/SHS is not able to prescribe your ADHD medication, we can provide you with off-campus referrals for testing or medication services. Our ADHD FAQ page provides more details about our ADHD medication policies and processes.