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Counseling and Psychological Services

A few FAQs about CAPS

Who is eligible to receive services at CAPS?

Students who pay the comprehensive student fee are eligible to receive help from CAPS at no additional charge.  Our services are also provided to university faculty, staff and administrators who may need consultation about student issues.

What can I expect when I call to make a first appointment at CAPS?

Our receptionists will schedule you for a “Brief Screening” phone appointment with one of our staff within 1 to 2 days.  For further information about Brief Screenings, see - FAQs about the Brief Screening Process.

When you are scheduled for a “Brief Screening” you will also receive an e-mail with a link to a form which asks some basic information about you and why you need to be seen. You’ll also receive additional information about the Brief Screening, the follow-up services provided at CAPS and our confidentiality policies.  You should review the material, complete the required forms and return to us quickly so that we have this all completed prior to Brief Screening. 

If the outcome of your Brief Screening is that you are scheduled to come into CAPS, your first appointment will last approximately 45 minutes to an hour.  Our goal during that time is to get a good idea of why you’ve come in and to discuss options for helping you or someone you’re concerned about.  Think of your first visit as an opportunity to speak with a concerned mental health professional that will try to understand what's happening with you and provide you with recommendations for getting effective help.

What if I don't feel I can wait for a Brief Screening appointment?

If you are concerned that you will not be able to avoid hurting yourself or someone else, or you feel like you are in crisis and your efforts to manage it are not successful, call CAPS immediately and ask to speak with the emergency consult clinician.  He or she will discuss appropriate next steps.

Following my Brief Screening will I be seen at CAPS for all the additional help I may need?

Many students needing services will be scheduled for follow-up appointments with CAPS professionals. However, there are other students who will be referred to providers outside of CAPS.  The different factors influencing these decisions can be complex and we’ll discuss them with you at the time you are seen. Most often, external referrals are based upon students’ needs for longer term treatment. The good news is that if you are referred out, Charlottesville has an excellent private practice mental health community. If a referral appears to be the best way for you to receive the treatment you need, CAPS staff will do its best to help you connect with a provider who can meet your needs.

Are CAPS services confidential?

Yes, they are; though there are a few exceptions.  Below is more detailed information about confidentiality and its limits:

Student Health Electronic Medical Record

Student Health uses an electronic medical record charting system which is located on a secure server at Student Health.  Notes written about CAPS psychotherapy sessions are only accessible by professionals at CAPS and Learning Needs and Evaluation Center (also within Student Health).   LNEC professionals will only access these notes when they need to evaluate student requests for academic accommodations related to psychiatric and/or learning disorders. 

Medical records pertaining to psychiatric medication evaluations and subsequent medication-related psychiatric sessions are accessible to other Student Health medical professionals.  Any diagnoses recorded as well as dates of treatment also become part of your Student Health medical record. 

Your Medical Record is Protected and Separate from other UVA Records

It is important for students to know that the Student Health medical record is separate from any other academic or administrative records at UVa.  The confidentiality of your medical record is treated no differently than medical records kept by physicians who are not a part of the university community.  If you are 18 or older CAPS professionals cannot communicate about you or send information about your treatment with anyone outside of Student Health without a release of information signed by you.

Legally Authorized Exceptions to Confidentiality:

1. Our records can be subpoenaed by a court of law.

2. The law requires that we make certain public health reports.  For instance we must report any suspected child abuse, neglect or molestation to appropriate authorities to protect the children involved.  The same must also be reported as it pertains to the vulnerable adult population (elders, disabled adults, etc.). Also, the law authorizes release of information for certain health oversight activities, such as audits, inspections and licensure investigations, and in health and safety emergencies.

3. The law requires that if a student is assessed to be:  1) acutely suicidal, 2) dangerous to others, or 3) unable to take care of him or herself or others as a result of impaired psychological functioning, appropriate personnel may be notified in order to arrange for hospitalization. 

In these instances, parents of a financially dependent student will also be notified of the student’s condition as well as specific steps the university is taking to address the student’s condition.

Such notification will typically occur through the Office of the Dean of Students unless the student specifically wishes the communication to originate through CAPS. 

The one exception to this course of action would be if it is determined that parental notification would cause substantial harm to the student or to others as a result of the notification. 

4. If it is determined that a student intends to physically harm another individual, the law requires that we notify the intended victim and/or appropriate police agencies in order to protect the intended victim.

5. Students under 18 may consent to mental health treatment and may be seen at CAPS without parental notification.  However, a minor's parents do have the legal right to request and receive mental health treatment records, unless the treating mental health professional determines that the release of said records would be reasonably likely to cause substantial harm to the minor.

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