Bong Joo Hwang, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, at Long Beach State knows that students are in need of services. He also knows that not enough resources are provided for every single student, but is working on changing that. Hwang is teaming up with his staff to make improvements and is already planning for a brighter future for CAPS in 2019.
Q: How do things change around this time of year at CAPS? Does it get any busier?
A: Short answer is yes. I want to say that around the second half of the semester, around October it gets busier and throughout the semester from there.
Q: Why do you think it gets busier in the second half of the semester?
A: There are more demands for services. The conditions, the resources we have, are all capable of providing service. The thing about it is that there are more students coming, and coming and coming in August. You cannot handle everyone and their needs, so it becomes backed up and all that business comes from there. Then we have studying and preparing for finals, maybe holiday issues, depending on the dynamics in their family, particularly if they are dealing with some family issues and certain kinds of family dynamics can add more stressors during the holidays. So overall, all those things can bring up a lot of settings.
Q: Do you try and hire more staff for more help? Maybe temporary help?
A: It depends on whether we have available allowed money to spend on hiring. Usually it depends, sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Luckily we do have some money this year. I mean it’s not going to solve the root problem… but it will help a little bit. Currently, I’m in the process of actually hiring a temporary hire, but it also depends on HR processes. It’s taking longer than I expected. It depends on the money available, and I think I can hire maybe a couple of temporary part-time clinicians who can help a little bit.
Q: What are some ways to help students get every opportunity they can get for their needs besides hiring more staff?
A: We decided to offer, for example, more drop-in groups. If you cannot get in for a regular appointment, we provide these other options to our students that do not even have to be CAPS clients. We created several different kinds of topics. I was a little bit surprised; I have provided the workshop titled “Acing the Final” on Friday and there were like 35 students who showed up. I was expecting about 10 students only… but it was nice, right, realizing that service was something students wanted to attend too. Other topics that the workshops include are anxiety, the anxiety of holidays, stress. Those kinds [are] pretty common topics and many students are struggling with.
Q: Do you think you’ll have those workshops that you’re offering for students to just drop in next year as well?
A: Yeah, we’ll see. I think I will evaluate about how successful they were and utilize that and depending on that, then of course. I think we need to consider a lot of factors even if it was like, wasn’t that successful for example, like, you know, not having anyone ever showed up? I don’t see that as successful, but maybe there are other methods…I think we need to consider those factors.
Q: What can students do meanwhile if there is a waitlist to get assigned to a counselor? What more can they do besides the workshops?
A: I think there are a lot of self help kind of things out there. Of course, if you are in an urgent situation, you must seek help right away, right? You can do a in crisis walk in with a counselor and they help you go through the crisis moment, so that’s an option. Hopefully not many people reach that level of a crisis. If you go to our website, it’s not really user friendly as of now, but if you explore a little bit there is a self help section. There’s a lot of really helpful information including smartphone apps that can be helpful depending on the issue. You can talk to your friends or family members that you have available as your support system. It is always helpful talking to someone rather than keeping things inside and being stressed out about it.
Q: You mentioned the website, do you think that will be a focus next year?
A: I hope so. I mean, again, maybe it’s hard to navigate, but the information is there. I’m hoping the process of updating our website does not take long because it’s not in our hands. It’s a lot of steps you need to go through. We have to wait for our turn. It’s not like it’s not controlled by us, it’s controlled by our department, if that makes sense. So we are waiting for our time.
Q: Can you tell me what is coming next year for CAPS, like something new that will impact the future of CAPS?
A: Next year, something new is I just hired an associate director. We are trying to take a look at how we can actually improve our clinical system. I’m hoping to make CAPS more accessible if there is anything we can do [for] our students. That’s something that I think that’s big on our part. Like I said, we will be searching for new additional clinicians in the spring, so that will be helpful. We recently acquired some more space … that is why we are able to hire this new staff. I’m excited about expanding our office.
Students can learn more about CAPS and its services on their website.