The UCF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff members engage in research on a variety of issues related to college student mental health as well as conduct ongoing evaluation of our services. As scientist/scholar-practitioners, we aim to incorporate the latest psychological research findings in our clinical and outreach work. We welcome collaborating with faculty and students interested in examining issues pertinent to college student mental health. For more information, please contact our research coordinator, Dr. Larry Marks at

Current Research Projects

  • CAPS is a member of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. As such, we contribute numeric data about our students who seek counseling to a national data set which allows counseling centers across the country to examine trends and compare campuses. The student data is always anonymous and never includes any identifying information.
  • Understanding what’s going on with the “non-clinical populations” (i.e., students who have not sought counseling) is just as important as gathering information on those who do seek counseling. We are carrying out a research project examining UCF students’ mental health background and current symptoms being experienced.
  • In addition to our on-going evaluation survey of students seeking counseling which measures satisfaction and self-ratings of change, we are designing a study that would include objective measures of outcome and change experienced by our students who participate in counseling.
  • Each year, CAPS conducts a Strengths Screening Day program to bring more awareness to the positive qualities of UCF students. We currently have data collected on over 1000 students’ strengths.
  • Another national effort, The National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education, housed at the University of Texas at Austin is carrying out a study on suicidal thoughts of college students and how students cope. We will be participating by surveying UCF students in 2011.

Services Evaluation Data

Each semester, CAPS asks students to complete an evaluation of the counseling services that they have received. Here are a few of the highlights from the 2009-2010 academic year:

  • 91% of students agreed or strongly agreed that counseling has been “very effective and helpful overall.” Another 8% were “neutral.”
  • 86% of students agreed or strongly agreed that counseling has “helped me to feel better about myself.” Another 12% were “neutral.”
  • 98% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they would refer a friend to CAPS. Another 2% were neutral.

College Student Mental Health Research

Here we feature a relevant research finding on college student mental health. This section will be updated with a different research finding periodically, so be sure to check back here each month.

Ways to increase psychological well-being for first year college students.

Researcher Nicholas Bowman analyzed data from first year students across 19 colleges and universities. Students completed a survey at the beginning of their first year (n=4501) and again near the end of their first year (n=3081) which assessed the students’ psychological well-being, background information, and experiences during their first year in college. Among the findings were that students who spent more time in extra-curricular activities showed greater gains in personal growth, positive relations with others, and purpose in life (three dimensions of psychological well-being). Positive interactions with diverse peers also contributed to greater psychological well-being, whereas negative experiences with diverse peers were related to declines in psychological well-being. In addition, students who were challenged in class and had more interactions with faculty had higher psychological well-being scores. Whether this is your first year or not, find ways that you can become engaged with activities, friends, and classes.

Bowman, N. A. (2010). The development of psychological well-being among first-year college students. Journal of College Student Development, 52, 180-200.

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Each semester CAPS has an undergraduate research assistant, usually an advanced student majoring in psychology, work with us on our research projects. A collaborative effort between CAPS and the UCF Psychology Department, the research assistant enrolls in research credit hours (PSY 4912).

Currently, the position is filled. When we have an opening for a research assistant the information will be posted here. For other undergraduate research opportunities please visit the Office of Undergraduate Research.