Scared of Needles?

With flu season in full swing, help is available for needle-phobes.

Nobody likes getting the flu. It can knock students out of commission for days or weeks, making it nearly impossible to study or get homework done – and heaven forbid it catches up with you during midterms. The H1N1 strain going around this year is a particularly nasty one. At the same time, for some folks the prospect of getting vaccinated is the more terrifying option. What’s a needle-phobe to do?

Fear of needles falls into the broader category of “Blood-Injury-Injection” phobia. While some people may experience mild anxiety or nervousness prior to an injection, others may feel a more intense dread or terror. This particular type of phobia is unique because – unlike other common fears such as spiders, clowns, or heights – sufferers’ blood pressure can drop, sometimes causing “vasovagal syncope”, a fancy way to say fainting. (Although other types of phobias can make a person *feel* like they’re about to faint, in those cases, their blood pressure actually increases, making fainting impossible.) Fear of needles also tends to run in families; psychologists still aren’t sure why!   Continue reading


Meet Staff Counselor Amy Mandell

Twice a month, we’re getting to know one of our CAPS staff members by asking them to answer five questions. This month, we’re featuring Amy Mandell, LMFT, one of our permanent staff members who has worn several different hats over the years.

Amy Mandell, LMFT

Amy Mandell, LMFT

What is your position at CAPS, and how long have you been working at UCSC?

I began working as the CAPS Case Manager in 2008, helping students access resources and providing crisis support.  After four years as Case Manager, I transferred to a new position and have been working as a Staff Counselor since that time.

What is your favorite part of your job?

There are quite a few great things about my job.  I enjoy working in a learning environment, and helping students take advantage of it.  It’s great to meet so many students, to hear about their successes and struggles, and to help them find the path that feels right for them.  I believe that we are heavily shaped by our own personal experiences of family, culture, religion/spirituality (when applicable), and our place in society as compared to others.  I appreciate learning about others’ experiences, witnessing the strengths that people bring to the table, and helping to make those strengths more evident and useful.

Tell our readers about one of your favorite spots on campus or in Santa Cruz.

One of the highlights of being on campus is watching the deer follow regular pedestrian rules.  I’ve seen deer look both ways before crossing the street, use the crosswalks, and even use the stairs!  It’s hilarious and strange at the same time.  I also love the College 9/10 meadow in the mornings.  It’s so beautiful and serene.

What do you do to take care of yourself and relax?

If I didn’t engage in some form of regular exercise, I think my brain would permanently remain on overdrive.  Running is particularly effective at helping me live in the moment and feel happy.  Even better is running with my partner and my dogs.  I also love to cook, and to eat good food!

What is one thing you wish you knew as a college student?

Looking back on my college days, I wish I knew of the host of campus resources at my disposal, and that it’s okay to ask for help.  As a first generation college student, I wasn’t aware that it’s normal to ask a professor or TA for help, or to request meetings with my academic and financial aid advisers.  Ironically enough, I didn’t even know there was a student counseling center on campus.  I felt much more at home once I learned how the university system worked, joined a few student organizations, and found others who shared similar life experiences.

Building Healthy Relationships, Part 2

Conflict in relationships is inevitable – the question is, how do you handle it successfully? Last week, we covered the four major barriers to successful communication. This week, CAPS case manager Edward Olvera tackles the tricky problem of Emotional Flooding.

Fueling Relationship Conflict: Emotional Flooding

by Edward Olvera, LMFT

Flooding is a natural response to feeling threatened. Whether we’re actually in physical danger or responding to our partners’ criticism, our bodies act just like the Neanderthal did when faced with a saber toothed tiger. Once the arousal system (aka the Sympathetic Nervous System) becomes flooded, ready to fight, flee or freeze, it’s nearly impossible to resolve hurt feelings. We can act impulsively. Stress hormones compromise our ability to resolve conflict. As adrenalin and cortisol flood the nervous system, we feel the ‘fight or flight’ response. When emotional flooding takes hold it makes empathy very difficult, and thinking becomes more difficult. We can be consumed with tunnel vision and become blind to alternative solutions and creative problem solving.    Continue reading

CAPS Student Hero: Marlene Chow

Marlene Chow hopes to be a psychologist one day, but for now, she’s kicking butt and taking names as a member of the CAPS Student Advisory Board. She’s passionate about educating others about counseling and helping to de-stigmatize CAPS services. For that, and all you do, Marlene you are a CAPS Student Hero!

Marlene Chow

Marlene Chow, Student Advisory Board Member

What’s your favorite part about being a UCSC student?

I love the environment and people of UCSC. I’ve never been in such a community oriented area, and I love how friendly and caring the people of UCSC are.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

Outside of school, I love to volunteer my time to tutor kids and help them with homework.

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

CAPS is an amazing program, and it makes me sad to say that most students don’t utilize it’s benefits, when they easily can. Going to CAPS doesn’t make you crazy and it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and I wish more people would understand that.

Marlene Chow is a College Nine sophomore majoring in intensive psychology.

Have Questions About Substance Use?

by Blair Davis, Psy.D.

Help is Available, On or Off Campus

Have you ever had questions about your substance use or felt like you needed information and support from others who understand? Or, maybe you have a friend, relative or partner who has a substance issue, and you could use some help knowing how to deal with it. If  these scenarios hit home, you might be surprised to hear how many resources there are on and off campus.

The newest resource for people seeking support for their own or others’ substance use is SMART Recovery, a cognitive therapy–based group that will begin meeting weekly on campus this week. The approach is based on scientifically proven theories of recovery and includes facilitated discussion and education. It can be helpful for problems with any sort of substance or addiction. The first meeting is Thursday, January 7th  from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Stevenson College Senior Commons Room. SMART will continue to meet every Thursday at the same time and location. It’s free, and you don’t need to sign up—just come at 7. SMART also has a weekly meeting downtown on Tuesday nights from 8 to 9:30 pm (Little Red Church, 532 Center Street). For more information, contact Don MacDonald at 831-338-2878. Continue reading

Building Healthy Relationships, Part 1

Relationship concerns are one of the most common issues students bring up in counseling. It’s no surprise – our relationships are an extremely important part of our world! In this three-part series, CAPS case manager Edward Olvera shares some tips on avoiding pitfalls in communication that ruin relationships, as well as information on how to improve them. Our focus here is on romantic relationships, although I’m sure you’ll notice that many of these tips are applicable to your friendships and family relationships as well.

Conflict in Relationships: Recognizing Barriers to Communication

by Edward Olvera, LMFT

Many of us believe that conflict is the root cause of an unhappy relationship, however it’s not conflict itself that is the problem, but how we handle it. Venting anger constructively can actually be beneficial in getting a relationship back in balance. There are Four Barriers to successful communication in times of conflict: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Continue reading