March 2, 2023 — Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) has received accreditation that has been earned by only nine of the 23 California State University campuses.

The designation from the International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS) ensures that the mental health care provided to students meets the gold standard. Through a comprehensive peer review process, IACS confirms the highest standards are being met, validates professional excellence and distinguishes standout counseling centers with its accreditation seal of approval. It assesses counseling and clinical services, ethical standards, personnel, resources and relationships within the university community.

“It is clear that CAPS offers a well-regarded and comprehensive program,” said IACS Executive Director Ann Patterson in the letter announcing the eight-year accreditation.

CAPS exceeds the standards in many ways. One is that it offers 24/7 phone counseling so that students, faculty and staff can talk to a clinician immediately at any time. While on-campus psychiatrists are not required, CAPS has three psychiatry residents supervised by a licensed psychiatrist so students can get prescriptions they need.

Training programs that help develop practitioners are not required, but CAPS has two because Director Kirsten Olson thinks they are important. In the graduate-level training program, students earning master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology augment services provided by licensed staff under close supervision. Through the Mental Health Peer Program, which launched in Fall 2022, undergraduate psychology majors provide one-on-one counseling for school-related anxiety and conduct outreach and tours of the CAPS clinic.

CAPS also provides crisis intervention; individual, couples and group counseling; workshops and presentations; consultation with faculty, staff and loved ones; and resources and referrals.

“I have been running the clinic as if it was held to higher standards,” Olson said. “We are offering every element of best practices that we can.”

Olson’s high standards led her to begin the rigorous accreditation process after she began a two-year tenure as Director in 2015. She restarted when she was asked to return as Director in 2019, but the pandemic delayed the IACS site visit planned for 2020 and thus final accreditation.

Significant support from counseling staff and other colleagues up through CSUCI President Richard Yao, a licensed clinical psychologist, has enabled CAPS to earn accreditation and to go above and beyond in serving the increasing needs of students, Olson said. Since 2015, the number of staff members has doubled, and they have gone from seeing 6% of the student body to more than 10%. They help students navigating multiple stressors beyond academics including jobs, child care, identity issues and financial responsibilities. Some are dealing with complex trauma histories.

“Students are in more crisis than ever before, and our newly accredited program is stronger than ever to meet their needs,” Olson said.

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