Cannon Chapel

CAPS and the Chaplaincy go virtual to promote emotional well-being

March 2, 2021

Campus Life

Students are facing a series of daunting challenges this year, with all the usual academic stresses compounded by a pandemic that puts a strain on mental health. The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of the Chaplaincy have responded by reaching out to the campus community in new and safe ways.

Peter LeViness, director of CAPS, said the office has shifted their primary services to a secure video-conferencing platform for tele-health, and they've also acted to make counseling sessions more convenient.

“We’re now offering same-day appointments,” LeViness said, “Students seeking services for the first-time this academic year request an appointment in the morning, and they’re able to get an appointment that day.”

Among some of the new ways to assist students, CAPS created a peer-support warmline, which is a non-urgent text-based option for UR students who want to talk to a trained peer.

This spring, CAPS Peer Support interns are contacting students in COVID quarantine to check in on them. And CAPS staff are reaching out to students in COVID isolation who have not responded to a daily automated check-in to see how they’re doing. 

Like CAPS, the Chaplaincy has also leaned heavily on online sessions to continue its programs for various religious communities on campus. The office relies on Zoom for students to gather and express how the pandemic is affecting them, said the Rev. Dr. Craig Kocher, University chaplain.

“It fosters a sense of shared experience,” Kocher said. “Struggle becomes all the more difficult when you're isolated in it. The emotions become more difficult to manage, or acute or fearful. But if you feel like others are sharing it with you, that builds a sense of community and resilience.”

In another example, one of his colleagues started virtual yoga sessions. The meetup was prompted by the need to reach out, create shared experiences, and prompt meaningful conversations, he said.  

Kocher said the office also looks to work one-on-one with the campus community, which sometimes means a masked-up, physically distanced walk around the lake. More often those conversations are online, where Kocher says some people may actually find it easier to share.

“Ironically, in some ways, it provides greater intimacy, because students may be willing to share a little bit more behind the safety of a computer screen than they might face to face,” he said. “I’m particularly aware of how hard it is to be a young adult right now.”