The UA health center’s new system, which launched last fall, aims to more efficiently connect students to long-term, local counseling.
The UA Pat Walker Health Center partnered with Thriving Campus, a website that aims to improve students’ access to off-campus mental healthcare, to launch a website Aug. 26. The website has been a resource that can help students and faculty seek specialized counseling and treatment in a variety of psychological practice areas.
Thriving Campus is a referral database that consolidates Northwest Arkansas community providers onto one site, said Melissa Atkinson, a clinical case manager at the UA Pat Walker Health Center.
“There are students who want years and years of therapy-and we can’t provide that because we wouldn’t be able to see other students,” Atkinson said. “We still see the same volume of students, so (CAPS) is more of a brief model.”
The addition of Thriving Campus has not significantly affect wait times at CAPS, said Zac Brown, the PWHC assistant director of communications, in an email. Wait times vary throughout the year, but generally become longer as the semester progresses.
Initial consultations take about one week at CAPS, but students sometimes get in sooner if there is a cancelation, Atkinson said. It usually takes students around two weeks to start counseling sessions.
Because students have different needs, clinicians may provide care on campus or help students find therapists on Thriving Campus, which allows for customization. People can narrow their search from the 61 counselors to find one that fits their needs based on practice areas, gender, language, race, religion or age.
Caitlin Draper, a therapist who has had her own practice for two years, thinks the website is a great resource for students, she said. Draper has had patients come to her because of Thriving Campus, and thinks it empowers students to find the right counselor.
“It allows patients to find who they vibe with,” Draper said. “By looking at the profile, they can get a good sense of what that therapist is about. I feel like all the students that have come to me from the website have been a really good fit.”
Carmen Conrad, a junior, has known many students who wanted therapy but did not know how to get started. Despite not having used Thriving Campus, Conrad thinks it is a good resource for students, she said.
“If I was having a hard time or felt like I needed that kind of help, then, yeah, that sounds like a good option to have,” Conrad said.
Atkinson thinks CAPS clinicians use the website multiple times a week, she said. She also thinks the number of practices are increasing in NWA.
“We’re actually growing in a progessive way, not regressing,” Atkinson said. “CAPS is continuing to grow, and Thriving Campus is not a detriment to (staff).”
UA officials do not control Thriving Campus, which depends on counselors in the area to provide their information on the website, Atkinson said. CAPS collaborated with Thriving Campus to create the system.
Draper was approached by CAPS officials to fill out a profile for the website, she said. She had been to CAPS events where clinicians from the area can meet each other.
All of the providers on Thriving Campus are screened to make sure their licenses are in good status, Atkinson said. There is a chance that CAPS clinicians will suggest someone, but students have to make sure they are available.
“It does still take a little bit of effort on the student’s part, but I think so far it’s been a very clean, efficient, easy way to help connect UofA students with ongoing mental health care,” Atkinson said.