This article is part II in a short series on Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Minerva: its evolution and student experiences in each class. You can read part I here.

Of the 126 students in the class of M’20, around 98 of them lived in London during the Fall 2019 semester, and 88 were present in Taipei at the beginning of the Spring 2019 semester. Of those not on rotation, around 23 are in San Francisco, and some are either at home or with other cohorts. 

While in San Francisco for their first year, Dr. James Lyda acted as the only full-time counselor for the roughly 70-80 students who sought counseling services at least once. 

[Dr. Lyda] helped to make them feel better about their previous fears and stereotypes regarding counseling

In interviewing three M’20 students in their final years, I asked them to reflect on their experiences with CAPS throughout their time at Minerva. Each of those interviewed that met with Lyda stated to have had a generally positive experience. One anonymous student said he “made me feel really comfortable” and that he helped to make them feel better about their previous fears and stereotypes regarding counseling. In the intervening two years, students have had two part-time counselors present in each city. 

This academic year, students in both London and Taipei have had a single part-time counselor. The CAPS team told the Quest  that there was only one counselor in each city “due to M19’s and M20’s having less students than other cohorts.” They added that, “more hours [in the counselor’s contracts] may be added if needed,” as was the case for Dr. Sonia Avasthi in London, who was able to add more hours. 

“For next year, we will likely need to hire an additional counselor to meet [demand],” CAPS further stated “[and w]e are grateful for our counselors, who love working with Minerva students, and manage to find some flexibility in meeting our needs.”

[W]hen she experienced a particularly distressing time and couldn’t get counseling services right away, she “called a number provided by Minerva” and was quickly connected with an external service.

Generally, students report a “smooth” and quick process for scheduling initial meetings with counselors. One anonymous student we interviewed used CAPS once in both Berlin and Buenos Aires, they remembered it as an “easy experience,” with the waiting time between initial contact and first meeting being around a week. Though, when they experienced a particularly distressing time and couldn’t get counseling services right away, they “called a number provided by Minerva” and were quickly connected with an external service. They went on to say this external service was best for when they were in immediate need.

Regarding the availability of counselors, Anotonia Boorman and another anonymous M’20 student cited high usage of services as decreasing the availability of counselors. “[One counselor in Berlin] suggested 15 minute sessions because there was too high a number of people using the services,” remembered the anonymous student, at which point they “stopped seeing [them].” Boorman claims that, when she initially expected to be able to visit the counselor once a week in London, she was surprised the default was every two, and “sometimes it was even once a month.” She went on to say that “[i]t seemed like you could only use [CAPS] if you were desperate.”

Physical accessibility of counselors has changed in each city. Boorman pointed out the difference in accessibility between the counselors in Buenos Aires and Berlin, stating that the counselors in Berlin were “super accessible” as they operated out of an apartment in the same complex as Minerva students lived. Boorman remembered that counselors in Buenos Aires, by contrast, were “an hour away” by walking and 30 minutes by bus – 4.4 Kilometers from the residence.

Finding a good counselor “[is] like dating […] Sometimes you just don’t click.”

Boorman found her experiences with each counselor to be dramatically different. Finding a good counselor “[is] like dating,” she said. “Sometimes you just don’t click.” On the CAPS Hub page, they acknowledge not all counselors will be good for all people. CAPS says this is why they promote finding external services if need be. 

Boorman, though, says she is still confused about external services, further saying “if someone’s in a dire state, they aren’t going to [go out looking for someone].” Finally, Boorman discussed the difficulty of having only one or two counselors for an entire cohort. When she didn’t click with one counselor in Buenos Aires, she refrained from visiting the other as her “ex-boyfriend was seeing [that counselor] too” and this made her uncomfortable.

All in all, the students interviewed appeared to have an appreciative tone towards CAPS, with the main downfalls being high usage preventing very frequent services and small number of counselors meaning chances of “clicking” may be reduced. To further Boorman’s point that counseling “[is] like dating:” sometimes, it’s a hit or miss, but you just keep trying.