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CAPS is running four free, group workshops for students this summer. Credit: Samantha Turner

As the University continues to grapple with decisions regarding the fall semester, Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services is planning initiatives for the upcoming academic year that are flexible for all possible formats of fall classes.

Throughout summer and fall, CAPS is looking to continue increasing collaboration with Campus Health and Student Health Services, and identify and create more student-centered support groups, CAPS Senior Clinical Director Michal Saraf said.

This week, providers from CAPS and SHS have met virtually on BlueJeans to discuss the most effective ways to create continuity in the care between centers, in an effort to support students through a more holistic approach. Saraf said increasing communication, collaboration, and “finding smooth ways of operating jointly” has been an ongoing goal. 

In early February, CAPS launched its behavioral health consultant program in an effort to streamline communication between CAPS and SHS. The program originally featured one behavioral health consultant, Heather Charboneau, whom providers at both CAPS and SHS are able to call on when they deem that a more holistic consultation is needed for a specific student. 

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said CAPS is planning to add another behavioral health consultant to the program in the coming months because the program has been heavily utilized this year.

CAPS will run four free group workshops for students this summer. CAPS Associate Director of Outreach and Prevention Batsirai Bvunzawabaya said CAPS typically offers two or three groups in the summer, but decided to provide more this summer given that many students have had summer plans canceled as a result of the pandemic and may be in isolation.

The new group CAPS has created will focus on coping with ambiguous grief and loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambiguous grief is commonly understood as loss without closure, which Saraf said alludes understanding. The group will be open to a maximum of seven students. 

Bvunzawabaya said CAPS decided to limit the number of students in each group workshop because students and staff have found larger groups to be less effective and more difficult to manage through BlueJeans. 

The other groups, Mindfulness for ADHD, Manner and Speaking, and Yoga for Mental Health, have been previously offered at CAPS. The mindfulness for ADHD and manner and speaking groups will be available to a maximum of approximately 15 students each, and the yoga for mental health group will have no maximum limit.

If there is an overwhelming demand for the workshops, however, Bvunzawabaya said CAPS will look to add more sessions to accommodate student needs.

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