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pennface
Credit: Alana Kelly

Many talk about being sad at Penn, yet not everyone takes action to change their situation. It is no secret that CAPS has a negative perception on campus and has had one for a while. Although I have only attended a few sessions at CAPS, I want to push back on this stereotype that CAPS and more generally, therapy, is ineffective. 

CAPS is what we have here at Penn and it’s better than not talking at all.

One of the main concerns with CAPS is expediency. To combat this issue, CAPS implemented quick therapy sessions such as "Let's Talk", which I have gone to, as well as other methods to improve efficiency. While many of my peers have complained about the long wait, I went in and scheduled an appointment set to occur in the next three days. While waiting a while is always a possibility, I want to emphasize that this is not always the case, so do not be disheartened about signing up for an appointment. 

Furthermore, we have been conditioned to view therapy negatively even before trying it. Whether it be social or cultural norms, there are barriers to individuals seeking out help, leading men and individuals from certain ethnic groups to never seek out therapy. Stepping into the CAPS office, I not only felt exposed and weak, but I also felt as if I was doing something wrong. 

Toxic phrases such as “toughen up” or “get over it” which we say to ourselves and others prevent us from getting the help we truly need and deserve. I want to push back on the fact that therapy is an indication of weakness. In fact, with a small percentage of people seeking help who actually need it, it is a sign of strength. 

Additionally, the expectations which many have for therapy are extremely unrealistic. We want fast results and solutions, which is impossible if students are not vulnerable and have negative viewpoints of therapy in the first place. While our mindset is a significant factor contributing to negative impressions of therapy, vulnerability is another dilemma. 

Going to an Ivy League institution such as Penn, many of us strive to make our lives appear seemingly perfect and maintain a Penn Face. Thus, breaking that barrier down in front of strangers can be hard, yet we need to challenge ourselves to do it. We need to promise ourselves to make our mental health a priority and to give ourselves the love we deserve. Perhaps the problem with therapy isn’t the therapist or the long lines. Perhaps it is the fact that we put up so many barriers, both mentally and emotionally, when it comes to therapy. 

While CAPS may not have amazing reviews, frankly, it is in some ways all we have. For anyone suffering with mental illness or anyone who simply needs to talk about life, bottling everything up is not the right solution.So try going to CAPS, blocking off people’s negative perceptions of it, and give it a chance.

Consistency is key in everything you do, and depending on your situation, it can be unrealistic to expect to feel better after two or three sessions. Going to CAPS should not be viewed as taboo; it is an act of love. Love yourself and get the help you need.

EMILIA ONUONGA is a College freshman from Middletown, Del. studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Her email address is eonuonga@sas.upenn.edu 

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