Of the approximately 180 people in the class of 2021, most were on rotation in Berlin during Fall 2019. This semester in Berlin was the first where Minerva did not directly hire CAPS staff. Instead, they arranged to have Minerva students see two counselors from Linden Global Learning Support Services. Students saw them in the Linden office, located in Berlin’s central Mitte neighborhood, about a 20-minute bike ride from the residence hall.
Minerva contracted two Linden counselors the year before, but in 2019 sessions were paid for by GeoBlue rather than Minerva itself. Students typically only need to email the CAPS team to schedule an initial appointment, but now also had to wait for GeoBlue to file the necessary paperwork for them to have a session.
Though GeoBlue covered up to 30 sessions, students could only attend five by default. To get further sessions, their counselor must request approval for continued treatment based on a diagnosis of an acute or chronic mental health condition.
“It does not mean a student needs to have a severe condition to be approved, but processing can take some time,” Dr. I-Ching Grace Hung, one of the leaders of the CAPS team, said. “Use of the term ‘diagnosis’ is misleading in this situation because every interaction one has with a mental health or medical professional has a ‘diagnostic code’ based on either the ICD-10 or DSM 5 [psychological reference books].”
“It took about three weeks before I got GeoBlue approval and could return to sessions. Those three weeks were really hard.”Bella Buchanan (M’21)
Hung told the Quest she hopes the experience of getting counseling through GeoBlue will help students learn how to navigate mental health services outside of Minerva, an issue that came to the team’s attention after the class of 2019 graduated.
She acknowledged the “growing pains that were unexpected” with rolling out the new system this semester. The initial five-session limit was not clearly communicated to all students, causing confusion and disrupting students’ appointment schedules if the application process for more sessions took too long.
Bella Buchanan (M’21) was one student who didn’t learn about the five-session limit until her fifth session; she also told the Quest her counselor was similarly unaware of the limit until that time.
“I wanted to continue because I really needed the support so I asked [my counselor] Katherine to diagnose me,” Buchanan said. “It took about three weeks before I got GeoBlue approval and could return to sessions. Those three weeks were really hard.”
“Linden and CAPS have been able to iron out many of the factors that led to counseling services being disrupted or delayed by insurance processes.”
Students in Berlin coped with the same counselor availability limits students in other Minerva cities face. Margarita Levitova (M’21) had four weekly sessions before switching to a bi-weekly schedule due to high demand.
“Having the meetings bi-weekly now is of course so much better than not having any at all!” Levitova told the Quest. “But it’s much harder to keep myself accountable, and so much happens emotionally in two weeks that an hour is never enough to work through all that crap.”
Overall, Hung told the Quest that the CAPS team will continue to evaluate the value of providing mental health care through GeoBlue. If future classes do use the same model, Hung said that “Linden and CAPS have been able to iron out many of the factors that led to counseling services being disrupted or delayed by insurance processes.”