During the Intake session after your Brief Assessment, the therapist will ask you why you are seeking therapy or what specific issue is bringing you in for help. The therapist will want to know how this is impacting your life (i.e. I can’t make friends, I can’t focus, I feel confused etc.). They will likely ask your personal history and current situation, who is in your support system and have questions related to medication, substance and alcohol use.  You and the therapist my focus on some goals for therapy. Therapy enables people to understand their feelings, what contributes to them feeling a certain way, and explore ways to more effectively manage and reach their goals. 

Although we work in a brief therapy framework, there are no session limits at CAPS. The majority of students who come to CAPS see a therapist between 1-4 sessions. Brief therapy is to help students with specific problems or goals so they can get back on track as quickly as possible.  You and your therapist will continue to assess your needs together. Sometimes in brief therapy, it may be determined that more sessions are needed to help reach your goals or come to a decision about a specific matter. Other times, deeper long term therapy would be more beneficial. In these cases we usually refer to a community clinician who can see you long-term and on a regular basis.

We carefully consider each individual’s needs and options that are available to them. Many factors are involved when determining the needs of a student and the length of therapy at CAPS. Some considerations may be the severity of current issues that a student has, their access to insurance or transportation, changing circumstances or unexpected events that occur in a student’s life. 

Sometimes students want short term therapy, but after evaluation longer term recommended or is more beneficial.

CAPS is a confidential service meaning mental health clinicians protect your privacy by not revealing what is talked about in sessions.  All information disclosed within counseling sessions is confidential and may not be released to anyone other than health care providers at CAPS and Student Health Services (SHS)  without your written permission except in certain situations described below. If UCSB Student Health is collaborating with your care, we may communicate about you with SHS staff (including sharing of medical/mental health records and information). 

We are mandated to protect information from your parents, family members, professors, departments, employers, immigration, friends or anyone inquiring about you. We don’t disclose any information related to substance use, legal issues, involvement in sex work, past criminal activity, sexual assault, physical assault, what we talk about in session, or if you attend CAPS. 

This means that a mental health professional that is seeing someone as a client in therapy, can only break confidentiality under the following extreme circumstances: 

  1. Where there is a reasonable suspicion that you are likely to harm yourself unless protective measures are taken;
  2. Where there is a reasonable suspicion that you may present a danger of violence to others or their personal property and that the disclosure of the communication is necessary to prevent the threatened danger;
  3. Where there is reasonable suspicion of abuse of children, including if someone has downloaded, streamed or accessed any of the following media that depicts a child engaged in obscene sexual conduct: films, photographs, videotapes or video recordings, negatives or slides;
  4. Where there is a reasonable suspicion of physical abuse of an elder (an adult over 65) or a dependent adult who is being physically, emotionally or financially harmed;
  5. Where you cannot physically take care of yourself, (provide yourself with shelter, clothing, feeding)  because you are gravely impaired;
  6. Where a judge orders a therapist to discuss some aspect that you have discussed in therapy;
  7. When a release of records is court mandated; or if a student cites his/her client record in a lawsuit, as required by state or federal law.

In all of the above cases, the therapist is either allowed or required by law to break confidentiality in order to protect you, or someone you might endanger from harm. 

CAPS follows professional, legal, and ethical guidelines established for psychologists by the American Psychological Association and by the State of California. An electronic record is kept of your protected health information which is subject to confidentiality laws. Written or electronic records of contact with CAPS do not go on academic records. Files may be reviewed in the process of agency accreditation visits by professional review teams; all materials are handled confidentially and no materials with identifying information will leave the agency without written permission.We share our records with SHS.

Additionally, If you want someone in your life to talk to your therapist and be a part of your care, you may sign a “Release of Information” allowing the therapist to speak to them about your care.

When people are struggling with issues in their life, most try to resolve it themselves.  If you have tried everything you can think of to feel better, and it’s still not working, a therapist may be able to help you break through the roadblocks that are keeping you from finding resolution and feeling better.

Often problems or symptoms impact our ability to complete our academic work, social life or general functioning. If you find that you aren’t able to tend to your daily tasks, therapy may be helpful to help you uncover what is at the core of your struggle.

Many times people delay getting help because they feel as though their problems aren’t “bad enough” to come to therapy.  Research shows that the sooner people get help, the faster they get better and the longer they remain improved.

Everyone feels sad sometimes. When you’re sadder than usual, you might say you feel “depressed.” But how do you know when extreme sadness crosses over into clinical depression?

Depression can include feeling sad, but it’s more than that. Depression involves symptoms like feeling exhausted all the time, losing interest in activities you normally enjoy, appetite and sleep changes, feeling worthless or helpless, or thoughts of death and suicide. Episodes of depression last 2 weeks or more. They can be triggered by a sad event or they can seemingly come from nowhere.

If you’re sad because you didn’t do well in a class, are going through a breakup, or lost someone in your life, sadness or extreme sadness is a natural reaction to events like these.  If the feelings don’t get better over time, or if your mood starts to get in the way of your daily life, your sadness can turn into depression.

Not all depression includes feeling sad.  Sometimes for no reason they can identify, people can feel “blah,” have low motivation, experience feelings of guilt (“I shouldn’t feel this way. I have everything going for me.”), feel irritable, have poor concentration or feel like you are physically dragging.  It can be hard to identify as often people feel they need a “reason” to be depressed. Sometimes, this isn’t the case. Body chemistry, genetics or seasons can impact a person’s mood.

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).

These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. You may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings.  You may notice that you feel nervous or tense, have an increased heart rate, breath rapidly, feel restless, have trouble sleeping or have trouble controlling worry. These troubling experiences can be treated very effectively with therapy and, in some cases, medication.

Student Mental Health Coordination Services (SMHCS) is an office on campus for anybody who is worried about another student in distress. The coordinators will consult with you about the person you are worried about, provide referrals to campus departments, develop action plans, and follow up with students, staff, and faculty when it is appropriate to do so. SMHCS can provide a coordinated university response  and reach out to a student in distress.


Please contact Student Mental Health Coordination Services if you are worried about another student and you:

  • Do not know where to refer the student

  • Would like to consult about possible responses to a student’s behavior

  • Notice a student’s behavior is making others feel uncomfortable

  • Believe there may be safety concerns in the future (e.g. the student indicated potential harm to themselves, thoughts of suicide or potentially hurting others)

  • You have called 911 because of a safety concern


  • Provide consultation and suggest response options

  • As needed, mobilize the Student Behavioral Intervention Team (may include Social Work Services, Counseling & Psychological Services, Student Health Service, Judicial Affairs, Residential Life, and UC Police Department)

  • Provide follow up with concerned parties if appropriate

You can contact the SMHCS at 805-893-3030. You can also submit an online concern at www.sa.ucsb.edu/REFERaGAUCHO.  They are located in the Student Resource Building. 

If you are unsure what to do about a student in distress, you can also consult with a clinician at CAPS for guidance. You can call CAPS at 805-893-4411 or come to the front desk and tell them you would like to discuss your concern about another student with a clinician.

In order for a CAPS therapist to provide you with a letter for an emotional support animal, you must have a current treatment relationship with a CAPS therapist and not be seeking services solely for a letter. The emotional support animal should be a part of the treatment plan with your current therapist. Often, an emotional support animal is recommended only after a person has first tried established treatments for mental illness (e.g., psychotherapy, psychiatric medication).It is also required that you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder that meets federal criteria for a disability.

If you have questions related to the integration of our Electronic Health Record system, please click here.