Counseling Services

Eligibility for Services

All currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students at the University of California at Santa Cruz, regardless of insurance type, are eligible to utilize CAPS services. Note that there is no guarantee of a particular length of service or type of service at CAPS, and CAPS operates using a "brief therapy model," meaning that typically when we provide individual counseling, it entails just up to a handful of sessions rather than open-ended, ongoing counseling.

Making a First Appointment

If you haven't been seen at CAPS this academic year and want to talk to us about your concerns and options for getting help, call CAPS at (831) 459-2628 during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or stop by the CAPS office, to schedule an initial assessment appointment with a counselor. During this appointment, we will get information and talk to you about your concerns and history so we can collaboratively make a plan with you for next steps for getting help.

Note that CAPS does not offer drop-in counseling/therapy sessions. We do provide same-day crisis assessments during business hours, when warranted. We also offer our Let's Talk drop-in consultation service during fall, winter, and spring for students who would like a one-time meeting with a professional counselor to get support, advice, or info. No appointment is needed for Let's Talk. There may be a short wait if other students are being helped.

Off-Campus vs. On-Campus Services

Sometimes off-campus therapy (i.e. with a counselor who does not work at CAPS) is your best option, and off-campus services may be recommended by CAPS after your first appointment. Off-campus therapy provides several advantages over therapy on campus through CAPS:

  • Off campus, you may be able to see a counselor/therapist on evenings or weekends.
  • 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.
  • In some sitiuations, you may need a service not available through CAPS, such as comprehensive psychological or educational testing or intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment for a mental illness, eating disorder, or substance use disorder.
  • Because of heavy demand for CAPS services, there are times when seeking services off campus may result in getting started sooner.

Our off-campus therapy page has info and tips, including a searchable database of local therapists.

Telemental Health 

Your first appointment with CAPS may be via telemental health over Zoom or phone. You and your provider will determine together if your follow-up visits will be in person or via telemental health.


Information that you communicate to a CAPS counselor/therapist is confidential and is not communicated to anyone outside of the Student Health Center/CAPS, except in a few rare situations (see below). The fact that you are seeing a CAPS therapist does not appear on your academic records.

Exceptions to Confidentiality

  • CAPS is a professional counseling agency that is part of Student Health Services and as such, staff working at CAPS may consult with each other as well as UCSC Health Center clinicians as needed regarding their clients to provide the best coordinated care.
  • As a professional counseling agency, CAPS is 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. Information gathered during therapy appointments is kept as part of your CAPS/Student Health Center chart and is protected by legal and ethical confidentiality laws and policies.
  • In certain situations when there is potential imminent risk of harm or death, confidentiality may not be protected (e.g., actual or suspected abuse of minors, seniors, or disabled people unable to care for themselves; suicide; homicide; planned violence toward others; and cases involving individuals who are gravely disabled by a mental health condition that results in their being unable to care for themselves). In such cases, CAPS staff may be legally required to report to other parties (when appropriate) the minimal necessary information needed to address the situation.
  • When there is a valid court order for the disclosure of your files.
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.

Email Policy

Because email is not always confidential and cannot be guaranteed to be an effective or timely means of communication (such as in emergencies), 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. If you email a CAPS staff person, they may reply to ask that you communicate through phone or Health e-Messenger secure messaging.

Individual Counseling at CAPS

  • Counseling (also known as therapy) at CAPS generally entails one or more (up to a handful) sessions per academic year, depending on the situation and availability of services.
  • Counseling can help you gain insight, improve skills, set goals, and get support. It's also a chance for the counselor to obtain information about your symptoms, concerns, and history to make recommendations and sometimes make a diagnosis of a mental health condition, when appropriate.
  • Counseling is not a "quick fix" but a collaborative process that typically requires the active participation of the student in making change.
  • In some cases, instead of brief counseling at CAPS we will recommend open-ended counseling off campus or other services 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.

More information: Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex (Brochure)

Groups and Workshops

CAPS offers a variety of counseling and support groups and educational workshops in fall, winter, and spring quarters (and occasionally during summer). Based on your initial assessment appointment, we may recommend one or more of these services.

Group therapy is very effective for many issues, especially those related to interacting with others or those in which getting feedback or perspectives from peers would be valuable. Many of our groups are "closed," meaning students sign up at the start of each quarter and attend weekly for the quarter. A few of our groups are "drop-in," meaning you can come whenever you choose without signing up.  

CAPS’ educational workshops cover a variety of topics, such as anxiety and stress, mindfulness, and test anxiety. We offer several workshop series and some one-time workshops throughout the academic year, led by either CAPS professional staff or trained peer educators. We can partner with you to plan a workshop for your org, res hall, or other group; contact us during business hours at (831) 459-2628 and please allow at least 3 weeks of prep time.

Check out our Groups and Workshops page for more info and updates.

Couples and Family Counseling

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

Crisis Services

Same-day crisis screenings are available by phone during business hours (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.): Students experiencing a crisis can call (831) 459-2628 for assistance. Staff, faculty, or loved ones concerned about a UCSC student in crisis can also call us at (831) 459-2628.

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. Call (831) 459-2628 and follow the automated menu to connect with a live counselor for psychological crisis assessment, consultation, and intervention during evening and weekend hours and on holidays when the CAPS office is closed.

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

Student Health Services Medical and Psychiatric Providers do not offer testing, treatment or refills for ADHD medications. Students requesting ADHD testing and/or treatment are referred to local or online providers. Our team can help you with off-campus resources to obtain these services in a timely manner. 

Students wanting to address mood and anxiety symptoms as well as inattention can be evaluated by UCSC Psychiatry, if appropriate for our services. Workshops and individual appointments with our psychiatric case manager are available to determine the appropriate treatment option. View our Psychiatry page for more information.