Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS Center)
The mission of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS Center) is to foster the holistic development of student wellness, mental health, resilience, and optimal success by offering short-term clinical services, outreach and educational programming, and consultation services in a non-judgmental inclusive environment where all are welcome.
Counselors are available to meet with students to explore a wide variety of issues. Common concerns addressed are stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, academic distress, or substance abuse/addiction issues. The counseling staff is committed to helping students find appropriate and effective ways of managing their areas of concern.
Counseling appointments may be made during normal business hours by visiting the CAPS Center, located on the lower level of McGowan Hall, or by calling 570-674-6408.
Welcome to Misericordia University's Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS Center)! In order to serve your needs, we offer a variety of services to students.
What kinds of services are offered?
Please read below and click on the following links for more information about our available services:
We recognize the research that supports the benefits of therapy dogs for overall wellness (e.g., lowers stress response, increases relaxation, etc.) and mindful awareness (dogs certainly live in the moment and help us to do the same).
Therapy dogs are made available on campus a few times throughout each semester, especially around midterms and finals. Two locations are used:
- In the CAPS Center - Small groups of students (e.g., 4) sign up ahead of time for a reserved time slot to interact with 1 or 2 therapy dogs. This format ensures plenty of time for direct interaction in a more private environment.
- These events are made possible through the generous support of MU faculty and staff from the Teacher Education Department who have therapy dogs and volunteer their time in service to our students.
- In the Banks Lobby - Multiple therapy dogs are brought to the Banks Lobby for an unlimited number of students, faculty, and staff to have an opportunity for interaction. This format ensures that anyone interested can participate and no appointments are necessary.
- These events are made possible through a partnership between the CAPS Center, the Coordinator of the Initiative for Compassionate & Mindful Living, and Therapy Dogs International.
Consultation and Referral Services
In addition to the services listed above, all students are eligible for at least one initial assessment and consultation session to discuss their concerns and receive recommendations about potential services and resources.
Regarding referrals, the CAPS Center utilizes a short-term counseling model and is not equipped to treat all types of psychological concerns and does not provide psychiatric/medication services. Some students may require more specialized or comprehensive treatment than what we can offer and will be referred to resources in the community. If applicable, the counselor will discuss these options in greater detail and answer any questions to support the student in making informed decisions.
If desired by the student, the CAPS Center is also available to consult with any current or prospective providers to provide information and help to ensure a smooth transition for continued care.
Q: What is the cost of counseling services?
A: All counseling services are provided free of charge to currently enrolled students.
Q: Are services confidential?
A: The topic of confidentiality is taken very seriously at the CAPS Center, since counseling often involves sharing personal and private information.
Confidentiality is maintained in compliance with state and federal laws as well as professional ethics and standards.
Client files at the CAPS Center are securely stored separately from students' academic, medical, or career services records.
- Information may not be released to anyone without the written consent of the student, except in rare cases, which the counselor will discuss in greater detail at the first session. Examples of exceptions to confidentiality may include:
- Danger - if there is reason to believe that someone is in imminent danger of abuse, neglect, or harm to self and/or others, then a counselor is legally required to report this information to appropriate people to help ensure safety.
- Child Abuse - If the counselor has reason to suspect, on the basis of their professional judgment, that a child is or has been abused (even if they are no longer in danger), they are required to report their suspicions to the authority or government agency vested to conduct child-abuse investigations.
- Internal Professional Consultation / Supervision - Since the CAPS Center staff operate as a team with the goal of providing the best possible care for clients, there may be times when your counselor may consult internally with other counselors or receive clinical supervision from a supervisor.
- External Professional Consultation - You may request, in writing, that the CAPS Center release information about your counseling to persons you designate.
- Examples might include consultation with a medical provider in MU Health Services or an off-campus psychiatrist.
Q: How do I make an appointment?
A: Just call the CAPS Center at 570-674-6408, or simply visit our office at any time during business hours (M-F, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to schedule an appointment.
Q: Where is the CAPS Center located?
A: The CAPS Center is located on the lower level of McGowan Hall.
Q: What hours is the CAPS Center open?
A: Generally, the CAPS Center is open during the standard MU business hours (8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday).
- Scheduling evening appointments in advance may be available upon request.
- The "Need immediate assistance?" section of this website provides additional information about after-hours emergency resources.
- The CAPS Center is closed when MU is closed, such as holiday breaks or due to inclement weather.
Q: How long do I have to wait for an appointment?
A: Typically, initial appointments are scheduled within 1 week; often within a few days.
We understand that students often contact the CAPS Center when they're in distress and that reaching out for help is not always easy, so an important priority for us is to schedule appointments as quickly as possible.
However, at times, the demand for services may exceed the number of available appointment slots, so the earliest available appointment may be a bit longer. If there is an urgent need for services sooner than the earliest available appointment, please notify our receptionist.
Q: What are counseling services?
A: Counseling is an opportunity to discuss personal concerns/issues with a therapist and explore ways of working through them. Although some students may wish to utilize counseling services over the course of the semester or year, many students may need only one or two counseling appointments to discuss a current situation in order to gain clarity and/or direction. Besides individual counseling, counseling services also include therapy groups, support groups, and psycho-educational groups, as well as consultation and referral services, and crisis intervention.
Q: Who goes to counseling and for what?
A: Many people of all ages and backgrounds access counseling support. Here at MU, students access support for a variety of concerns, such as stress, relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, or grief.
The CAPS Center provides completely anonymous and confidential online screenings that cover a variety of common topics for college students, including anxiety, depression, academic distress, alcohol use, and other areas of potential concern.
Immediately following the brief screening, your results will be presented, along with recommendations and resources.
Just click the link below to access a screening:
The Role of Faculty with Students in Distress
Many students manage the many transitions they experience very well. However, there will always be some students for whom the pressures seem unmanageable. Students who are overwhelmed or struggling will not always be able to leave their stressors and reactions outside the classroom. Their inability to do so is the reason why faculty may observe either changes in behavior that point to distress.
Since faculty are often the most consistent and primary contacts for students, your expressed interest and concern could make the difference of whether or not a student succeeds in college.
Your role and responsibility is not to work individually with students who are experiencing emotional distress, but you can play an important role in getting the students the help they need. Students respect their professors and your concern for them and encouragement to access supports available to them can make a big difference in how open they are to doing so. The following Resource and Referral Guide offers you behaviors to look for in distressed students as well as how to help and when to refer students to the CAPS Center.
Faculty Resource and Referral Guide
CAPS Center counselors are available to students, faculty, and staff to discuss situations of concern. While respecting confidentiality, counselors will offer feedback regarding how to address difficult situations and people.
Symptoms of Student Distress
- Changes in emotions and/or behavior over a period of time
- Changes in class attendance and/or performance
- Depressed mood
- Crying in class
- Angry outbursts
- Isolation from peers
- Aggressive behavior
- Decline in personal hygiene
- Coming to class high or intoxicated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme activity level
- Rapid speech
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional response which is inappropriate to situation
- Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Seeing/hearing things which are not there
- Talking about suicide or not wanting to be around anymore
How/When to Help
- Talk to the student and describe the specific behavior that concerns you
- Avoid judging, evaluating, and criticizing the student
- Encourage the student to access support in the CAPS Center when you feel the student's problem is one that you do not feel qualified to handle, that personality differences will interfere with your ability to help, the student is a personal acquaintance, or if you feel you are overwhelmed, pressed for time, or at a high stress level yourself.
- Offer to walk with the student to the CAPS Center in case the student would appreciate the support or if your concern is urgent.
- If you are unsure about what to do about a student, call the CAPS Center during business hours for consultation (570-674-6408) or Campus Safety (570-674-6300).
Some of the behaviors listed on the Resource and Referral Guide are ones that indicate an immediate crisis and need immediate attention. They include:
- Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Seeing and/or hearing things that are not there or are not real
- Talking or writing about suicide including plans and/or methods
- Homicidal thoughts communicate either verbally and/or in writing
- Highly disruptive behaviors (aggressive, hostile, violent threats/behavior)
What Can Students Expect When They Come to Counseling
You can help students feel less anxious about accessing counseling support if you know what they can expect when they come for services and can give them an idea when you refer them. Upon arrival in the Center, students will be greeted by our administrative assistant. She will invite them to have a seat in our private waiting room and complete the intake paperwork that includes basic information about them and the reason for their coming for services. (They obviously would not have to do the paperwork in an emergency). This paperwork and all paperwork connected to them as clients are confidential and are kept in locked confidential files. Students should know that their files are separate from their school records. All services are free, confidential and private. We may only share information with others with a student's written permission unless we are concerned about their safety or the safety of others. After students complete the paperwork, a counselor will come to the waiting room to meet them and walk them to his/her private office. The first session is called the intake session and the purpose of this session is to review the intake paperwork so the counselor can get a good sense of a student's concerns and issues. The counselor will talk with the student about a plan for addressing these concerns and ask the student if he/she is willing to engage in the counseling process. If the counselor determines that the student's issues are such that the student will need longer more intensive treatment that falls outside of our brief treatment model, we will offer the student some referrals for professionals in the local community. Otherwise, the counselor will schedule a follow-up appointment with the student.
What to Expect Once You Make a Referral to Counseling
If you contact the Center for a crisis or emergency situation, we will respond immediately to you by talking with you about a student of concern over the phone and/or coming to the scene and talking with you and the student. Once the immediate crisis is resolved, and we continue to have contact with the student, we cannot talk with you about him/her due to strict laws of client confidentiality. Following a general referral (or an emergency referral) of a student by you, we can ask him/her to sign a release form to give permission to at least let you know that they followed through on your referral, but this option is their personal choice. Confidentiality laws do not preclude us from listening to any new concerns you may have after we begin to see the student but just know that we will be mostly listening since we cannot share details of our conversations with the student.
Disturbing Content in Students' Work
Disturbing content can be in various forms, such as in written content in class papers, emails, and art work. It can often include self-disclosure about abuse of self, others, or animals. It may also be in the form of threats or strange content that does not make sense. Writing may be of a dark and/or negative nature. Frequent use of profanity in writing can also indicate disturbed content. Art work may reflect traumatic events and/or violence. Students who exhibit disturbing content may or may not also exhibit strange and/or disruptive behavior in the classroom.
In these instances, seek consultation with your department chair or appropriate department supervisor and the CAPS Center before directly addressing the student. If the student's content suggests an emergency situation, please see our Immediate Help and Off-Campus Community Resources pages for a variety of available support options.
Guide to Classroom Discussion Following a National or Local Tragedy*
When a national or local tragedy occurs, everyone deals with these experiences in their own way, but generally people have a need to be together and talk about it to try to make sense of the event. Faculty often wonder whether or not they should say something to their students in the classroom or not, and if they do choose to say something, they wonder what to say. The following suggestions may help:
- Stay with the student until help arrives.
- If you choose not to have a class discussion that is fine, but DO acknowledge the event. Students will most likely have a hard time concentrating after a tragedy and may interpret the absence of acknowledgement as insensitivity to the event. This may cause anger in some students. You might also just mention support services such as counseling services and campus ministry are available for those who find themselves having a difficult time.
- If you do wish to provide class discussion time:
Acknowledge the event.
- Suggest that it may be helpful to share personal reactions students have.
- Provide for a brief discussion of the “facts" and then shift to emotions. People are usually more comfortable talking with facts than feelings, so this approach allows an easier introduction to the topic.
- Invite students to share their personal reactions/feelings about the event. Perhaps begin this part by sharing some of yours to break the ice.
- If students begin debating about the “right way" to react, you might comment that how people react is highly unique and personal and that there is no “right way".
- Often, in the midst of tragedy, people will look for someone to “blame". This is a way of coping and trying to make sense of something that does not make sense. If the discussion gets stuck on “blaming", you might say something like, “It is not unusual to focus somewhat on anger and blame. It might also be useful to talk about our fears".
- Avoid trying to help students by trying to explain the meaning of the event. This is not your responsibility and would not be helpful. By their very nature, tragedies are especially difficult to explain.
- Thank your students for sharing their thoughts and feelings and remind them again of the support resources on campus available to them. Encourage them to use these resources should they need to talk further and/or one-on-one with someone. *This piece was adapted with permission by Joan Whitney, Ph.D., Director of Counseling Center at Villanova University.
- If you do wish to provide class discussion time:
Faculty Resources and Bibliography
The Day After: Faculty Behavior in Post 9/11 Classes
Teaching in Times of Crisis
Huston, Therese A., and Michele DiPietro. "In the Eye of the Storm: Students' Perceptions of Helpful Faculty Actions Following a Collective Tragedy." To Improve the Academy 21(2007): 206-224.
Kardia, Diana, Crisca Bierwert, Constance E. Cook, A.T. Miller, and Matthew Kaplan. "Discussing the Unfathomable:Classroom-Based Responses to Tragedy." Change 34.1(2002):19-22
Miller, Katherine. "The Experience of Emotion on the Workplace." Management Communication Quarterly 15.4(2002):57-600.
Pavela, Gary. "Memorandum to Faculty: Teaching Troubled Students After Virginia Tech." Spectrum Nov.(2007): 4-9.
Siegel, Dorothy. Campuses Respond to Violent Tragedy. Phoenix, AZ: Oryz Press, 1994.
Welcome to the Misericordia Family!
If this is your first time as a parent of a college student, you and your son or daughter are probably experiencing some good moments and some tense moments in the midst of the transition. This is a natural occurrence as your son/daughter experiences many changes that are occurring simultaneously. As they move toward adulthood, these changes include developing a sense of competence, managing emotions in a new way, moving toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing their identity, developing a sense of purpose, and developing a sense of integrity. They also are developing new ways of thinking for themselves and learning to take more responsibility for their choices and decisions. They are developing a sense of their own values and they are learning how to make good decisions in tough situations. The thing is, there is no blueprint for how your son/daughter will develop in all of these areas. They need to find their own way with your support and with the support of all of us who will interact with them here at Misericordia.
What Can Parents Do?
You can encourage your sons and daughters to get involved in the total college experience for two reasons. First, the more they get involved the more we can get to know them and direct them to appropriate support resources and personnel. Second, by immersing themselves in all that college has to offer, they will get to know themselves more fully as the unique individuals they are and learn how to build on their strengths for a solid long-term approach to life.
What does it mean to get involved in the total college experience? It means getting fully involved on campus by regularly attending their classes, attending tutoring sessions, and talking with their faculty. It means joining clubs and organizations and volunteering in service projects. It means utilizing campus support services, such as counseling services and career services. It means participating in intramurals and athletic events, as well as college-wide events.
Immersion and involvement in ALL of campus life (whether students are residents or commuters) is key to their ability to develop and emerge into young adults. You can help them by encouraging them to get involved and by allowing them to take care of their own responsibilities. This is how independence and success in college and life is nurtured!
Above all, keep the lines of communication open between you and your son or daughter and don't panic! Remember that most of the changes your son/daughter goes through are transitional ones on the way to becoming the young adult that you have raised them to be.
What Can the CAPS Center Offer to Students?
The CAPS Center offers individual and group counseling services, workshops, consultation and referral services, online screenings, and outreach events that address a variety of topics or issues that may get in the way of your son or daughter's academic and personal success in college. Many of these services are described in greater detail throughout this website.
We also have a Counselor On Call available 24/7 for emergency situations on campus. For more information about this and other crisis services, please see our Immediate Help and Off-Campus Community Resources pages for a variety of available support options.
Another facet of our outreach to students is through our CAPS Peer Associate groups, which include Active Minds, HOPE, and Peer Advocates. Students in these groups are trained by our staff to provide educational and awareness programming as well as offer support and referral to campus resources.
How Can the CAPS Center Help Parents?
We are always available to consult with parents regarding any concerns about their son or daughter by calling 570-674-6408. We welcome your contact with us and want to be supportive in your efforts to support your son or daughter.
Due to confidentiality, we may be limited on what information we can release, but we can always receive information from you.
If we happen to already know your son/daughter, then your information may be helpful to us in our work with them. If we do not already know your son/daughter, then we may reach out to them to offer our support.
What about Confidentiality?
Confidentiality is maintained in compliance with state and federal laws as well as professional ethics and standards. Information may not be released to anyone without the written consent of the student, except in rare cases, such as dangerousness to self or others.
Therefore, we cannot share the content of any contact we have had with your son or daughter, nor can we even confirm or deny that they have been seen in the CAPS Center. This applies even if you yourself have made a referral to us for your son/daughter or if your son/daughter has told you that they are seeing us.
If you want to know more about your son/daughter's attendance or participation in counseling, you can always ask them if they would be willing to sign a Release of Information form, which could give us their permission to share this information with you.
2. College Parents of America (publications on parenting college students)
CAPS Peer Associates is the umbrella term for the student peer groups sponsored by the CAPS Center. With an appreciation for supporting our students' wellness and mental health needs, Peer Associate groups provide opportunities for students to be involved with a great variety of outreach initiatives on campus and in our community. Members receive extensive training and support to serve their fellow students well and to also act as referral sources to the CAPS Center and other campus resources.
Please click on the following titles for more information about each group:
The CAPS Center offers a variety of practicum and internship training opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Curtis Wiseley, Psy.D.
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services
Dr. Wiseley earned his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Wright State University. He utilizes several different therapeutic approaches depending on the needs of his clients, including Cognitive & Behavioral, Existential, and Feminist theories. His areas of expertise include domestic violence survivor and perpetrator treatment approaches, relationship and communication dynamics, substance abuse, and clinical supervision.
Dr. Wiseley’s professional interests include student resiliency, counseling center administration, and research in college counseling centers, as he has consulted with a number of other university counseling centers and served on the Advisory Board for the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH). Dr. Wiseley is a veteran of the U.S. Army and has previously worked in a variety of mental health settings, including college counseling centers, outpatient treatment programs, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, hospital ER’s, and he also taught undergraduate and graduate coursework as an Associate Professor. At MU, Dr. Wiseley serves on the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT), Wellness Support Team, Suicide Prevention Committee, and Veteran’s Resource Team and is the advisor for Active Minds and the Peer Advocates.
Dr. Wiseley enjoys spending time with his family while riding ATV’s, hiking, hunting, and fishing.
Brittany O'Reilly, M.A., NCC
Brittany O’Reilly, M.A., NCC is an alumni of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania where she earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling. Brittany also earned a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern University with a major in Spanish and a minor in Sociology and graduated Cum Laude.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Brittany moved to Houston, Texas where she worked in staffing and recruiting. Throughout this experience, Brittany became increasingly aware that her passion was to help people and to facilitate emotional and relational growth. After several years in Texas, Brittany relocated to Pennsylvania to complete her Master’s degree with her alma mater. During her education, Brittany completed a clinical practicum at an equine-assisted therapy center and also completed an internship with York College of Pennsylvania in the Counseling Services center. It was through these two experiences that Brittany developed a passion for working with adolescents and young adults. Upon completion of her Master’s degree, Brittany worked full-time as a Substance Abuse Counselor in an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility.
Brittany utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment that draws on the strengths of many different methodologies to create a comprehensive treatment approach for each individual client. Examples of this include Cognitive Behavioral approaches, Internal Family Systems theory, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy models.
Brittany has experience working with individuals, groups, couples, and families with various issues in a wide range of populations. Her areas of clinical interest include: healthy relationships, communication skills, conflict management, trauma, anxiety, depression, body image, self-esteem, and vocational counseling. She is also the advisor for HOPE.
Brittany enjoys spending time riding horses, doing CrossFit, and finding new coffee shops.
Dana Fortunato Pavlick, M.S., NCC, LPC
Dana Fortunato Pavlick, MS, NCC, LPC received her Master's Degree from The University of Scranton in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She also has a bachelor's degree from Marywood University in Elementary Education with and English minor.
Dana is a native of the surrounding NYC areas of NY and NJ and moved to PA permanently after finishing up her bachelor's degree in 2010. Upon arrival, she worked as an after-school program coordinator for a non-profit in the Scranton area. Through working with these inspirational adolescents, she realized her love for working with teens and young adults and wanted to further educate herself on how to facilitate growth and inspire positive change in others. Along with helping others through therapy, another one of Dana's passions is providing psycho-education through programming and lectures focusing on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
Since graduating with her Master's, Dana has enjoyed working with many different populations in numerous settings. She has experience working with at-risk youths and their families/parents in outpatient and school settings, on campus with college students and facilitating group therapy in different settings as well. Some specific areas of interest in providing therapy are depression and anxiety, LGBTQ+ issues, trauma, mindfulness and coping, emerging adulthood struggles and conflicts, communication and relationship skill-building and grief.
Dana utilizes a variety of theories and sees each client as unique and requiring their own, customized treatment. She very much practices with a holistic approach, taking every piece of a person's being into account when administering treatment. Some other theories she tends to use are Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Gestalt Theory and Client-Centered Theory.
Dana enjoys all forms of art but specifically painting and music, doing yoga and spending quality time with her animals and with loved ones.
Kathy Zawatski is the Administrative Assistant for the Counseling Center and the Student Success Center. She has been a Misericordia employee for 27 years and has worked in a variety of departments over the years.
Undergraduate Psychology Practicum Student
Olivia is a junior at Misericordia and will graduate with her Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Statistics in December 2020. She will continue her education at Misericordia in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in January 2021. Olivia is looking forward to learning more about the CAPS Center's resources and being involved in programs on campus. She is a member of the Women's Cross Country and Track & Field teams at Misericordia. Olivia enjoys spending time with her friends, going to the beach, and finding new coffee shops.
Addiction Related Resources:
Here's a list of apps related to wellness and mental health, personally recommended by the staff at the CAPS Center:
- The Mindfulness App
- With a wide variety of options to suit all levels and types of meditators, The Mindfulness App is the perfect tool for anyone looking to improve mental health and overall well-being.
- Relax Melodies
- Select single or combinations of calming sounds to play for relaxation or sleep.
- "A gym membership for the mind," Headspace provides a series of guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. A free trial is available with additional sessions available by subscription.
- A brain-training app based on research showing that some types of activity can help you combat negativity, anxiety and stress while fostering positive traits like gratitude and empathy.
- Personal Zen
- Developed with a professor of psychology and neurosciences, a series of games based on clinical findings about methods for reducing anxiety levels.
- My Mood Tracker
- Knowledge is power. Once you become more aware of what you're feeling when, you can begin figuring out links between life events and cycles and your moods, which in turn will help you manage (and work around) your moods.
- Stress Doctor
- A cycle of stress-busting deep breathing exercises combined with a heart rate monitor so you can see the effects on your body in real time.
- Insight Timer
- The largest free library of guided meditations, with more than 15,000 titles.
- A portable stress management tool which provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body and instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill of diaphragmatic breathing.
There are a variety of support options available for off-campus mental health services, depending on your preferences, needs, and geographic location.
Please see our Off-Campus Community Resources page for additional support options.