Counseling and Psychological Services

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Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) seeks to assist students in developing greater self-understanding and help resolve problems that interfere with their optimal personal functioning. It is normal to experience adjustment problems, especially during periods of transition.

10 Tips for Coping with Tragedy

Without a doubt, the news from Beirut, Paris, Nigeria, U.S. college campuses, and other parts of the world is heart-wrenching.  Many of us are deeply concerned about these tragedies, and some of us have friends and family in these regions whom we may feel quite powerless to help.  “Are there ways to be helpful?” and “how can I manage my stress?” are two very natural questions to ask.  Below are some suggestions for coping and for feeling useful at this challenging time.  Some recommendations come at the suggestion of the American Psychological Association, so I offer a tip of the hat to this worthwhile organization.

1) Gather reliable information.  We feel better when we have clear information than when we are left to hear reports of the news from others.  Access your news from a reliable source, or multiple sources, and focus on facts rather than on opinions on the ground. 

2) Limit your news intake.  While it can be tempting to try and learn everything there is to know about the attacks in Paris and their aftermath, it’s also important to know when to stop.  Limit your news intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  For example, consider reading or watching updates for ½ hour in the morning, then another ½ hour when you get home at night.

3) Be patient.  This tip may be quite difficult for those of you who have a loved one in Paris.  The first few days after a crisis, in particular, are often marked by chaos.  Communication can be difficult, clarity about the extent of the impact may not be available and you may not know how to help.  Try and be patient as facts begin to surface about what happened and what is needed.

4) Try to connect.  If you have friends or loved ones currently in Paris, you can certainly try to connect with them.  Hearing that familiar voice or receiving a reassuring e-mail, text or Facebook post can help you to feel better.  However, be prepared for the possibility that your loved ones may not be able to communicate with you immediately.  They may be trying to gather information, manage their own stress and help others.

5) Engage in self-care.  At times of stress, and particularly when we are concerned about others, it’s easy to neglect our own needs.  However, maintaining a consistent routine and keeping up with healthy practices like eating healthy meals every day, getting enough sleep and taking time to exercise can help you cope with this crisis and be more effective with those you care about.                                                                                                                           

6) Accept practical support.  Similarly, at times of crisis, it’s important to let others help you in any ways that they can.  If you are too worried about friends or family to be able to focus on cooking a balanced meal—allow your friends to cook for you, bring you groceries or walk your dog. 

7) Accept emotional support.  It’s not only the practical support we need at such a time—we also need to be able to share our concerns, our frustrations and our hopes for the best with others.  Now is the time to let your colleague, your neighbor or your best friend reach out to you.  Know that they are unlikely to feel burdened at such a time—they may feel honored to be able to help.

8) Pitch in.  Your local news sources: newspapers, radio stations, and charitable organizations like the Red Cross (called the Croix Rouge in France) may be able to inform you and your community about practical ways to help.  Whether you organize your colleagues to make financial contributions, send letters of support, or reach out in other ways—taking action will likely feel better than waiting.  If you have teenagers or young adults at home, encourage them to help, as well.  This can be an opportunity to teach them the value of community and volunteerism. 

9) A reminder about resilience.  As concerned or discouraged as you may feel for your loved ones or for the city, remember that the human spirit is built for survival and resilience.  Remind yourself, as well as those you love, that they will likely be able to recover from this and that you will be there for them.  Do not be surprised if they express a range of reaction, from disbelief to grief to anger.  Help them to recognize that their feelings are normal and that, in time, they will likely be able to feel like themselves again.

10)  Seek out professional support.  If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the attacks in France, have difficulty concentrating at work or getting enough sleep, consider the possibility of counseling.  USF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers free, confidential counseling to currently enrolled students.  Know that we are here to help you through this crisis and with any concerns you may have.

Adapted from Daphne Lurie, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and director of the
TSRI Counseling and Psychological Services Department. 

To schedule an appointment with a CAPS counselor call 415-422-6352 to set up the initial phone consultation

Regarding recent tragedies:

The recent events in Lebanon, Paris, US colleges and other parts of the the world are saddening and we extend our support to everyone who is affected by these tragedies. These events may cause us to experience a personal crisis, to feel shocked, angry, sad, withdrawn, or numb. The extensive media coverage may cause us to feel vulnerable or trigger memories of our past traumas. It is normal to feel a heightened sense of concern for ourselves and others. It is also normal for us to have reactions that are different from those around us. During this time, we encourage everyone to reach out to loved ones, to be more forgiving of yourself and others because traumatic events decrease our ability to function as we usually do, and to reduce your exposure to media coverage of the events if it causes more distress. Additional information on coping with disasters and terrorism can be found at

In addition, please call CAPS at 415-422-6352 if you are in need of counseling services. Our After Hours line is also available from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 24/7 on weekends and holidays. Call 415-422-6352, wait for the prompt and press the number 2.

People who go through or witness violent events such as school shootings, combat, rape, torture, natural disasters or accidents have experienced a traumatic stress. And some are repeatedly exposed to life or death situations in their work, such as EMT…

The following resources may be helpful:



USF Campus Lifeline

USF Campus Lifeline assumes that each of us has a responsibility for promoting our individual and collective safety. To help us fulfill that responsibility, Counseling and Psychological Services has developed a brief but important PowerPoint presentation about suicide and violence on campus. The 10-minute presentation covers specific mental health issues and identifies campus resources.  Please be informed and effective members of USF Campus Lifeline and consider saving the presentation on your desktop so that it is available for future reference.

A message from Barbara J. Thomas, Ph.D., Senior Director, CAPS

Welcome to the website for University of San Francisco’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Our mission is to address the mental health needs of the USF community. While most of our work involves one-to-one or group counseling with students, we are also involved in consultation, outreach, training, and other activities to strengthen USF as an institution dedicated to learning and to personal and community development.

Consistent with the mission of the university, CAPS focuses on the education of the whole person. Through counseling and other activities of the department, we strive to assist students in identifying, understanding and solving problems.

Each year more than 900 students seek assistance at CAPS for a wide variety of problems and concerns. Typical reasons for seeking counseling include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, family issues, adjustment difficulties, and relationship conflicts.  Students are seen for short term counseling by the therapists on our staff.  If the issues the student brings cannot be adequately addressed in our brief therapy model, we assist the student in finding an appropriate referral resource.

We are also committed to assisting those who are concerned about others, frequently speaking with friends, faculty, staff, and families who are worried about students.  We can help understand what the problems might be and how the concerned other can intervene. All services are confidential.

Please review the web pages for CAPS and call us at 415-422-6352 if you have any further questions.

Barbara Thomas, Ph.D.

Counseling and Psychological Services


Gillson Hall, Lower Level

Tel: (415) 422-6352
Fax: (415) 422-2260

After-Hour Consultation: 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 24 hours weekends and holidays. Call 415-422-6352, press option 2

All Hours Consultation: For branch campus students. 24 hours including weekends and most holidays. Call 855-531-0761