No problem is too small for CAPS

The university’s Counseling and Psychological Services center wants to speak to students about any issue in their lives, from break-ups to burnout.


Graphic by Marcy Wilder with illustrations by Michelle Rodriguez-Gonzalez.

Kendall Little, Managing Editor

Kathryn Kominars is going to start making home visits in the fall. The director of FAU’s counseling center won’t be knocking on your door, but she and her staff will sit in the lobby of your residence halls – willing to talk for free about whatever bothers you.

Kominars has been leading FAU’s Counseling And Psychological Services center, better known as CAPS, since 2019. She knew one of the big problems with campus counseling centers is that students think they only exist to handle big problems.

Kominars wants to sweat the small stuff.

Why? Because she believes no problem is too small for CAPS.

“A couple of years ago, I met with one student who was going through a breakup, and we met a total of three times over the course of a month to assist her through the intensity of the experience that she was having with the loss of the relationship,” Kominars said.

Break-ups, loneliness, and burnout are just a few things that students can discuss with CAPS – even just the anxiety of moving to a new place, as Raya Levine found out. The junior marketing major headed to CAPS after her freshman orientation and was able to make substantial progress with her mental health.

“The thing I was able to get the most help with was control over my anxiety,” she said. “That was something that I was struggling really hard with due to starting a school in a new state and not knowing anyone.”

During the pandemic, CAPS moved online to continue assisting students.

“Once we got into COVID, they helped me with anxiety during work and having to live with family [that] I’ve never lived with before. I was having panic attacks multiple times a month when I never got them before,” Levine said. “I was able to stop them due to the techniques I was taught.”

Kominars wants to teach students strategies to better their mental health daily, not just during sessions.

The American College Health Association, an organization that advocates for college students’ mental and physical well-being, reported that 53.3% of college students felt lonely and 82.3% of students felt moderate to high levels of stress.

Graphic by Marcy Wilder with illustrations by Michelle Rodriguez-Gonzalez.

Kominars said the easiest way to combat everyday stressors is to create and stick to a schedule.

“I think it’s really important for people to schedule themselves so they’re not going to be so tired that they feel burnt out,” she said.

She recommends planning out your time analytically and strategically.

“Plan it out in the same kind of way that you would if you were doing a research project – beginning and middle and end,” Kominars said. “Do that with all the classes that you have, and then see what time you have leftover, and then allocate that to the other things that are important [like] exercise, making some friends, and being involved in the community.”

Taking part in fun college activities such as tailgating and club meetings may seem appealing, but Kominars urges students to finish their classwork before going out to have fun.

“When people are procrastinating, if they’re doing things that are sort of fun, they’re not as much fun as they would be if they had done the things that are bothering them,” she said. “If you do the task and then play, you have a lot more fun playing without the burden hanging over your head.”

The director of outreach at CAPS, Nikki Saltzburg, wants to help students with time allocation so that they’re able to enjoy their college experience.

“Be intentional about your time, and honest with yourself about what needs to get done today and what can wait,” she said.

Saltzburg wants students to know that counseling isn’t only for huge issues or those with mental illnesses.

“The college years are a demanding time in a student’s life, often marked with multiple increased responsibilities and transitions. Counseling can help students get support and learn new ways of dealing with challenges,” she said. “I always tell students that if they are feeling stuck in any aspect of their lives, it is worth it to come speak to a counselor for support and guidance.”

Issues that may seem small can become daunting quickly. Saltzburg recommends that students visit CAPS while their issues still seem minuscule.

“I would much prefer a student to come see me before an issue becomes a crisis rather than to wait until it escalates,” she said. “We live in an unpredictable and unjust world and it is normal to struggle at times, particularly if we are experiencing things like loss, discrimination, trauma, rejection, or other stressors. While some may see seeking help as a weakness, I think it can be one of our greatest strengths because I have never met anyone who could do it all on their own.”

The CAPS staff’s main goal is to help students succeed at FAU by bettering their mental health.

“We don’t spend time diagnosing people because that’s not what we’re about,” Kominars said. “We spend time really helping people go from where they are to where they want to be.”

That’s what CAPS is all about—improving a student’s life by working out issues, no matter how big or small.

“We have a focus on meeting people where they are, helping them develop their strengths, helping them identify their goals, looking at some of the challenges, and helping them function more effectively,” Kominars said. “It’s not about mental illness, it’s about mental well-being.”

Kendall Little is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @klittlewrites.

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