Beyond studying the brain and cognition, UNC’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience provides resources for those struggling with mental health needs.
One of these resources is the department’s community clinic. It offers therapy and assessment to students, faculty, staff and community members — provided by postdoctoral fellows, graduate students studying clinical psychology and licensed psychologists.
“We provide therapy and assessment services to children, adolescents, adults and couples, with the most frequent concerns being depression, anxiety, academic difficulties and relationship issues,” Jennifer Kirby, a clinical psychology professor and director of clinic operations and training for the clinic, said.
The clinic operates on a sliding scale, meaning that its fees are based on the client’s income. It uses evidence-based practices, with cognitive-behavioral therapy — or "CBT" — as its primary treatment approach.
Kirby said that they have noticed an increasing number of individuals contacting the clinic since the beginning of the pandemic.
These increasing numbers are likely due to more individuals facing challenges with depression, anxiety and stress.
“This is just a problem that we need to pay attention to, and it’s a huge public health concern,” Jonathan Abramowitz, the director of the clinical psychology program and a professor of psychology and neuroscience said.
About 60 percent of the clinic’s clients are affiliated with the University, the majority of which are undergraduate and graduate students.
While the University does have Counseling and Psychological Services, a program for mental health services, it operates on a shorter-term model, Kirby said. The community clinic, however, does not have a limit on the number of sessions and is equipped to help students who need longer term or more in-depth care.
“These are not therapies that go on for years and years. They're skills based,” Abramowitz said. “So our therapists teach — whether it's a student or someone in the community — skills and help them to get good at the skills. Then they're able to apply them, in most cases, and folks are able to learn and get out there and do okay.”
Though both organizations offer therapy for all individuals, Kirby said both are there for various reasons.
“If a student is hitting an acute stressor, and they need someone to talk with right away — maybe they've just gone through a relationship breakup or they're dealing with a roommate issue — CAPS can be a fantastic resource as they offer short-term counseling and they have immediate resources such as a 24/7 phone service,” Kirby said. “If students are looking for longer-term counseling to address multiple issues, then our clinic is likely a good fit."
Olivia Chester, a sophomore majoring in psychology said that the importance of mental health is especially emphasized in her psychology classes.
“I think that (mental health) is something that should be talked about more. Obviously, we go around and we talk about it, but I think that the language that we use is kind of warped and the stigma surrounding it is still there,” she said.
In efforts to provide increased support for students at the beginning of a new semester, the clinic is offering an LGBTQ+ resilience group that aims to connect LGBTQ+ students while helping them learn about and apply resilience skills.
Abramowitz and Kirby also recommend that students try to manage their stress throughout the semester by getting good sleep, exercising, eating healthy and connecting with other people.
“A small to moderate amount of stress helps us do our best. But, when it gets to the point that it's interfering with your life, your functioning, getting in the way of school, getting in the way of work, then it's time to seek help,” Abramowitz said.
The clinic has two locations: Evergreen House as well as the Finley Community Research Center and Clinic. Students can learn more about the clinic by visiting its website and can inquire about its services using their initial inquiry form.
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