Welcome to the official blog of UCSC Counseling and Psychological Services!

We are the UCSC community’s resource for counseling, wellness, and mental health concerns. Follow us here to learn more about upcoming events, health and wellness topics, our staff, and updates from the counseling center.

The CAPS blog is written and managed by the CAPS Peer Educator Program, with guest posts by staff and students. Our lead blogger for the 2014-2015 academic year is Alina Crom.

Click the about tab to learn more about CAPS, and what we can do for you!

How to Keep Your Cool While Applying to Grad School

Hello all! As some of you may know, I will be graduating from UCSC this spring and attending University of the Pacific for my Master’s program in Speech Language Pathology in the fall! It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling, but I’m extremely excited for graduate school!

Graduate school probably sounds scary for a lot of people, and it’s definitely not the only option you should be looking at right after UCSC. However, I just wanted to share my tips for applying to graduate school. I know that every program varies, and my specific experience during the application process is probably very different than other people’s. Still, here are some general tips and thoughts to keep in mind:

stressed person at computer

1) Start EARLY. The earlier, the better!

Graduate schools often change their requirements year to year, and the application portals don’t typically open until October. Still, looking at the prerequisites for grad school as early as possible is vital. For example, as a psychology major, I never needed to take biology or chemistry classes. I was really shocked to find out that those were two requirements for the graduate program I wanted to pursue, and I managed to squeeze those classes in during spring quarter of my junior year. If I had done my research earlier, I wouldn’t have been so panicked!

Also, grad school applications are just plain time-consuming. It’s best to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.

2) Try talking to your department advisers for your Majors AND Minors!

I have been interested in pursuing speech language pathology since my freshman year here at UCSC. However, as a psychology major, I didn’t really know who to talk to. I never received any information about speech language pathology from the Psychology Department, and I was definitely confused about where to start.

Little did I know, the Linguistics Department regularly hosted career talks about speech language pathology with UCSC alum guest speakers! Even though I am minoring in linguistics, I never seriously spoke to anyone in the Linguistics Department until my senior year. I really wish that I had tried to contact the Linguistics Department with my questions a lot earlier.

3) Check out the Career Center!

Even if the degree you’re looking into is highly specialized, the Career Center can still assist you and get you in touch with other people that have more information. Also, the Career Center can notify you about related internships or volunteer opportunities!

4) Do your research! Undergraduate programs can vary drastically from the graduate programs at the same university.

Just because a school was your “backup school” when you were first applying for college does not mean it’s necessarily a “backup school” for grad school. For example, one school that I applied to accepted less than 8% of all applicants into its graduate program, even though it accepted over 60% of all applicants into its undergraduate program. Don’t be blindsided and make sure you look at the admission rates for the specific program you are applying for!

5) Try to stay calm and don’t overload yourself during the application process.

I have always enjoyed staying busy, but I definitely overdid it during my fall and winter quarters. I was working as a resident assistant, a writing tutor, and a research assistant for a psych lab. Additionally, I was taking some very challenging classes and volunteering with CAPS. Adding the gigantic stressor of graduate school applications was definitely more than I felt comfortable handling. Even though everything turned out okay, I wish I had KNOWN what I was getting myself into beforehand. I think I would have cut down on my extracurriculars to give myself more free time.

One thing that actually was a huge help to me during fall quarter was talking to a counselor at CAPS. It felt good to just talk to somebody and hear their perspective. My counseling sessions relaxed me and made me feel less anxious. I would recommend it to anyone who feels that they need the additional support! Remember, CAPS is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm and you can call to make an appointment or access crisis services at 831-459-2628!


These are all of the tips I have, and I wish all of you the best of luck! Yes, grad school and graduation can be really frightening and stressful. However, remember to try your best and breathe. Just getting into UCSC proves that you are a smart, capable person that can accomplish great things!

I hope my tips were useful, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your quarter!

ICYMI – CAPS has a Relaxation Station!

CAPS Peer Educator Marisa Patel shares the outcome of her outreach project this year. Read on to learn more about the Relaxation Station launch last month!


By Marisa Patel

CAPS Associate Director Dorje Jennette, instructs peer educator Marisa Patel on a computer used at a new relaxation station for students to use to reduce stress through biofeedback. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)

CAPS Associate Director Dorje Jennette, instructs peer educator Marisa Patel on a computer used at a new relaxation station for students to use to reduce stress through biofeedback. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

In case you haven’t heard, the Relaxation Station Launched! What is the Relaxation Station, you ask? It is one of CAPS’s many resources to improve your self-care habits. The Relaxation Station, located in the CAPS waiting room, has a state of the line massage chair that you are welcome to use for 15-minute intervals, free of charge! Along with the massage chair, the Relaxation Station has an iPad from which you can access audio-guided relaxation exercises while getting your massage. Some of the apps included on the iPad are MindShift, CBT-I Coach, and PsychMeUp. Feel free to check out these apps and download them on your mobile phone, too! While waiting your turn to use the Relaxation Station, you can use the laptop in the waiting room that provides biofeedback programs and games. The biofeedback programs and games measure your stress levels and give you feedback so that you can learn to exercise some control over your stress levels.

The Relaxation Station launched just a few weeks ago on April 25th, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel covered the event—check out hyperlink! The launch was successful and I’m very proud of how everything turned out.

I’d like to give a big shout out and Thank You to everyone in the Peer Educator Program, and Dorje Jennette. Dorje is a licensed psychologist and the Associate Director for Clinical Services at CAPS. He was the lead developer of this project and he contributed an immense amount of time and work to the development and launch of the Relaxation Station. Thank you, Dorje, for guiding me and allowing me to help you officially launch this project.

I hope you all take advantage of this great resource that CAPS has to offer. Don’t forget to grab a gift bag on your way out!

Advice for Embodying Positivity + Upcoming Workshop on Tuesday, May 19th!

As the weather gets warmer, social media becomes deluged with advertisements for weight-loss, showing thin, smiling people claiming that a specific type of diet or exercise changed their life for the better. Although there is nothing wrong with eating healthily and exercising regularly, it is no secret that our society often equates a low weight to health and beauty. Common sense tells us that this is absolutely ridiculous. A person can be healthy and attractive at any weight, and we all come in different sizes and shapes.

When it comes to my experience, I know that I’m not alone in the fact that I often felt self-conscious of my appearance and my body while I was growing up. As a biracial woman, I never saw anyone in the media that resembled me – I felt like an alien. Additionally, in high school I was often teased for being shaped “like a boy.” Words hurt, and our society’s narrow perceptions of what makes someone attractive can have long-lasting effects on our confidence and how we view ourselves.

11245495_883089511751413_7127699274112337244_n That’s why I think it’s especially great that CAPS will be hosting a workshop next week called, “Embodying Positivity.” This workshop will take place on Tuesday, 5/19/2015 from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in College Nine’s Namaste Lounge. Participants will engage in a body-positive activity and discussion to promote compassion and love for oneself and body esteem. CAPS counselors Susan Gulbe-Walsh, PhD, and Kristin Sergeant, PhD, will facilitate the workshop. This workshop is open to everybody, and you should definitely stop by! In the meantime, I encourage you to check out this list for advice on improving your body image! I found these steps on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website and I think it’s a really great read:

  1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
  2. Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
  3. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
  4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
  6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
  7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
  8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
  9. Do something nice for yourself–something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
  10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.

I hope you have a wonderful day and stay positive!

Losing Somebody You Love – Advice for How to Cope

CAPS Peer Educator Hilaria Barajas shares her personal experiences with the grieving process and offers advice on dealing with this difficult situation.


By Hilaria Barajas

Loss of loved one

The loss of a loved one can be a very painful and confusing time. Whether it come predicted or not, when a loved one passes sometimes you feel as if your whole world has come to a pause. There is never a right or wrong way to deal with death. There are different stages of the grieving process and you might not experience all the stages. That‘s ok. It is important to remember that everyone goes through their own personal grieving process at their own time, and there is no “right” way to grieve.

My mother passed away when I was 17 and I was a senior in high school. She had been dealing with diabetes since I was born but she was strong. Although she had some rough times in and out of hospital because of her sickness she still seemed unfazed and continued to dedicate herself to her family. However, November 7th, 2012 was the last day she would be able to continue with her incredible strength and passed away from a stroke.

Everything after her death kind of went in a giant blur. This is where my grieving began and I entered one of the many stages of the grieving process: disbelief and confusion. At the time, everything seemed unreal and I felt disconnected to reality. I would later find out that these are very normal feelings to deal with after the death of a loved one. It is a sudden change to have someone so close to you gone so quickly. It felt as if she was just on a much-needed vacation or visiting family in Mexico. Continue reading

7 Tips to Enhance Your Well-being – Part 2


By Camara Chea

Peer Educator Camara Chea continues to give great advice for how you can practice self-care and feel better about yourself. To read Part 1 of this post (and see Camara’s first three tips for self-care), click here!


Hi, you! Welcome to the second part of “TREAT YO SELF”! In this last post of the two-part series, I will talk about other strategies that you can use to improve your well-being and mental health. If you haven’t read the first part, I really recommend that you check it out.

It’s really important that you take time to do things in your life that make you happy and improve your state of being. Balance is key. Especially now that it is midterm season here at UCSC, hitting the books might be the only thing on your mind. But remember, all things in moderation! So even though you may be in a studious frenzy, don’t forget to get enough sleep, take care of your needs, and be kind to yourself. And now…here are the rest of my tips!

One thing you can do to nurture your well-being is to connect with others. Developing strong, healthy relationships with other people can lead to greater feelings of happiness and belonging. But remember, it’s about quality, not quantity. Instead of focusing on likes or online friends, try turning your attention to making real connections. Especially in college, it’s vital that you satisfy your need for interaction. If you feel that you haven’t, try getting out of your comfort zone: talk to someone new, get involved (Student Clubs & Organizations), and spend quality time with family and friends. Building and maintaining these relationships can add meaning and enjoyment to your life, as well as improve your communication skills.

Something else that you can do is get organized. Have you ever noticed how overwhelming clutter can be? If you’re someone who can relate to this, it’s time to clean out your room, backpack, and life! Try to clear out things that make your life messier or drag you down. Because if it brings down your wellbeing…why bother? One thing you can do is organize your house/dorm room. Removing unnecessary clutter can help with concentration and facilitate your daily routine. It also just looks nice! Continue reading

Things I Wish I had Known Earlier

letter to younger self Dear 18-year-old Alina,

Hi! Just checking in with you. This is your 21-year-old self. Right now I’m set to graduate, and I will be turning 22 in a few short months, which I’m excited for. You don’t know this yet, but Taylor Swift is going to release a really catchy song about being 22, and you will love it.

Okay, so I’m getting side-tracked. Younger Alina, I wanted to give you some advice for the rest of your undergraduate career here at UCSC. These are things that I wish I could have known, things I wish I could have told you earlier. Unfortunately, I know you’re not going to get this letter because time-travel hasn’t been invented yet… Hopefully, the people who actually read this post will appreciate my advice.

1) Believe in yourself and trust your intuition. Younger Alina, I know you. Underneath your cocky facade, you have the self esteem of a dried up wasabi pea and you’re constantly selling yourself short. At this point in your life, you haven’t found your niche of close friends yet, and you aren’t the best with romantic relationships. Don’t stick with people who try to pressure you into things you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t date someone if you feel like you’re trapped. You definitely don’t need this kind of drama in your life. I mean, if your intuition is making you feel suspicious, trust it. Put yourself out there and be open. It’s okay to pursue new friendships and relationships if you want to and it makes you happy.

2) Make contingency plans. Younger Alina, I know you really want to go to graduate school right after graduating from college. In fact, you will exhaust yourself by maintaining a high GPA and taking on multiple leadership positions so you can be an extra competitive grad school applicant. HOWEVER… realize that even though you’re a good student, things still might not go according to plan. Graduate school is highly competitive, and you might get rejected. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey. Instead, try thinking of other options or jobs you can apply for. You can always reapply next year!

3) Get help for yourself and explore your resources. At this point, Younger Alina, you don’t even know where CAPS is. You also feel suspicious of counseling and think you’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself. But… talking to someone about your loneliness and getting advice for dealing with your stress would have helped you out a LOT. Yeah, you eventually figured it out, but I know that talking to a counselor would have been a huge help back then. Look online. Explore the CAPS website and the UCSC Career Center.

This is all my advice for now. I want you to know that you are loved, you will succeed, and you will try out things you never dreamed of doing. It’ll be great. I wish you the best of luck!



Upcoming “Stress Less” Workshops this Spring!


Hello Slugs!

We hope that Spring Quarter is treating you well… However, we also know that this time of the quarter is also a time when many students feel the most stressed. That’s why CAPS Peer Educators will be leading three Stress Less Workshops right in time for midterms! These workshops will teach you tried and true techniques for stress management, including ideas for increasing your resiliency to stress. Additionally, we will guide you through a great breathing exercise. If that’s not enough for you, we also have cool goodies like stress balls, pencils, and more!

So, when and where will these workshops take place? Come to the CAPS main office (located on the 2nd floor of the East Wing of the Health Center) to attend a Stress Less Workshop during any of these following dates and times:

  • Thursday, April 30th, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, May 11th, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
  • Thursday, May 28th, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

We look forward to seeing you at these workshops, and we encourage you to stop by and use us as a resource. Remember, CAPS is here for you! Be sure to call 831-459-2628 or stop by CAPS if you have questions.