Name change highlights transformed services at counseling center

What’s in a name?

For Dr. Mark Patishnock, director of the newly renamed Student Counseling and Psychological Services (formerly the Counseling Center), the answer comes in three parts.

The first is a new emphasis on diagnosis and treatment.

Having joined the university in 2015, Patishnock said the department had historically focused on academic and career counseling with less emphasis on diagnosis. With the introduction of the newly formed Academic Success Center and with the departments of Career Services and Academic Advisement focusing on those student concerns, the center has since shifted to a model that places greater emphasis on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of mental health disorders affecting Augusta University students.

“I think the name change accurately reflects what we do now,” Patishnock said.

The second is ensuring students get the best care and treatment possible.

One of the ways SCAPS does this is by partnering with the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) research project at Penn State, which allows for use of the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms (CCAPS) questionnaire. The CCMH research project maintains a database of more than 100,000 CCAPS responses from students who access that form at more than 300 university and college centers across the nation.

Utilizing CCAPS, university clinicians will be able to better focus their assessment and diagnosis efforts and monitor treatment change across sessions in nine areas of functioning.

“We can compare our students and our center to the nation sample,” Patishnock said. “That really gives us a sense of what’s going on with our clients, our center and ourselves as clinicians.”

The ability for SCAPS to perform a broad-based assessment about the quality of care given and received is a huge gain for students seeking mental health treatment, but it isn’t the only change to the department’s efficiency.

Patishnock said the department has also increased its visibility in an effort to cast a wider net of treatment.

“We take part in the JED initiative, Question Persuade Refer (QPR) training, and collaborated with The Graduate School to offer a nine-week IRB-approved resilience program for graduate students,” he said. “We’ve really gotten beyond the walls in trying to promote comprehensive wellness.”

Both of these efforts tie into the third element of the department’s new name: the chance to do more good, more often, in more places than ever before.

“On the Health Sciences Campus, the students never had a counseling center,” Patishnock said.

After bringing on more staff, transforming its services and changing the center’s name, SCAPS saw a huge increase in the number of crisis referrals and initial appointments.

“The Medical College of Georgia is one of our most common referral sources, now,” Patishnock said. “We’re seeing both different types of students and more of them.”

“More” is a huge understatement.

According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, nearly 30 percent more students visited counseling centers in 2014-15 than in 2009-10.

Within the first year of SCAPS’s rebranding effort, the number of crisis appointments at Augusta University increased by 168 percent. Initial appointments also rose by 87 percent. Patishnock attributes the increase, in large part, to the transformation in services and the dedicated clinicians who now comprise the new team.

“I don’t think there are more crises or more problems than were before,” he said. “I think it’s that people now understand you can walk in here Monday through Friday … and get those services.”

But it’s also in part due to the department’s updated mission: providing comprehensive mental health services for all students.

For more information about Student Counseling and Psychological Services, call 706-737-1471 or visit the SCAPS website.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article about the techniques university and college counseling centers are using to address the increase in student demand occurring nationwide. Augusta University SCAPS was recognized for their collaboration with the university’s Psychology and Counselor Education programs to provide additional services to students in need.Click here to learn more.

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Written by
Nick Garrett

Nick Garrett is a communications coordinator in the Division of Communications & Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him at 706-446-4802 or

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Written by Nick Garrett

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