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Q&A with CSULB CAPS Director Bongjoo Hwang

Bongjoo Hwang, director of Counseling and Psychology Services at Long Beach State recognizes the demand to address student needs. Since becoming director of CAPS, Joo has been actively working with the resources provided to facilitate as many students as he and his staff can.  Joo sat down with Daily Forty-Niner reporter Jacob Powers to answers questions about CAPS.

How did you and the CAPS staff deal with an increase in new students last semester?

We are working on it. One of the main goals for us counselors across the nation is to improve. We know that we are not meeting all students’ needs and we are actively trying to give opportunities to have equal access to our services. Short term therapy has changed over the last 20 years. Twenty sessions were considered short term therapy. Now we are aiming for four to five sessions. We cannot provide individual counseling to all the new people who are coming in. That’s why CAPS has increased other ways of accessibility including campus outreach and Project OCEAN.

How many people did CAPS see over the course of last year?

Of the 12,106 appointments scheduled last year, 9,542 appointments were attended by 1,939 students. Roughly 78.8% of CSULB students that attended a session in the last year had a scheduled appointment. According to CAPS outreach data, last year we were able to reach 6,010 people through a variety of events including campus workshops and training, tabling, consultation meetings, back-up counselor, Campus critical incident debrief, campus rapport building and CAPS commercial announcements. 

Are you planning to hire more counselors or staff members for this school year?

As of now, we currently have 14 full-time equivalent staff counselors, a case manager and an outreach coordinator. Ideally, I would like to see our counselor to student ratio go down, for me it’s more ideal if you have a one to a 1000 ratio. We don’t have control over our budget to hire more counselors. As a university and division, we try and let donors know our needs so that they are interested in donating to our program. We are searching to hire four full-time positions,  and we have filled five temporary positions for this semester, emergency counselor hires that are contracted for roughly six months. Two of our counselors part of the emergency hires have previously worked for us and all have various clinical experience. 

Currently how many counselors and case managers does CAPS have? Are there any plans to expand staff or services?

We have limitations, it depends on state funding as we get through our division and department. I am continuing to advocate for more funding. We do have some areas in our clinical system to improve on. Often times counselors are busy because they are seeing new clients. We need to provide equal access, so we have been changing the way we see students by more efficiently addressing their type of appointment needs. 

Now I know it can be frustrating for students who are trying to get in when we are booked two weeks out, this is one of the negative consequences of student frustration. We are working on a backup plan that will increase accessibility further to students who’s issues can be addressed through one or two sessions.

What are some of the most effective services that students can access through CAPS regarding mental health?

I feel like our outreach program, for example, Project OCEAN, has developed a connection with the campus community. We have students wanting to volunteer for events, with that connection you could have a pretty large outreach. There are areas to grow more, our overall CAPS program is always trying to expand peer programs. Our tasks and challenges are focused on how we can connect with all of the campus, but there is still room for further impact.

 Moving forward, office space is an issue I’m trying to expand training programs, we don’t have any part-time students and I would like to have some that would be helpful. I’m more interested in collaborating with other departments if they are interested in funding counselors, student housing is willing to fund our department for embedded counselors that would work in the housing through the CAPS program.

This article was updated Feb. 12, 2020, at 4:47 p.m.

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