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For Ecclesiastical Leaders

How CAPS can help?

Each individual’s process of becoming is unique and sometimes bumpy. Working with these individuals can be overwhelming and you might be left at a loss of how to intervene. This section of our website will help you gather ideas of how to invite initial conversations with those in your charge.

At CAPS we are interested in helping you attend to the mental health needs of those in your congregations. Those over whom you have stewardship include hundreds of developing individuals, working at establishing temporal competence in many ways. Some of these areas include gaining independence, learning to manage emotion, solidifying self-identity and defining their own ethical values.

CAPS counselors are available for consultation with ecclesiastical leaders and offer free therapy services for full-time, daytime BYU students. CAPS faculty will consult about a student, provide referrals to campus departments, develop actions plans, and follow up as appropriate.

Be aware that CAPS faculty adhere strictly to ethical and legal practices of confidentiality. Counselors are available for consultation and appointments during working hours.

In crisis situations, CAPS also provides after-hours phone consultation (after 4:15pm MT) for church leaders, faculty, staff and students (call 801.422.3035 and follow the recorded instructions) who may be concerned about a distressed student during weekends, evenings or holidays.

Mental Health and Spiritual Concerns

The mental health needs of BYU students has followed national trends and become more complex over time. There a variety of contexts in which one can intervene to help individuals ameliorate their concerns. In many instances, ecclesiastical leaders helping with spiritual concerns can be a great benefit to struggling individuals.

If spiritual interventions seem to offer little help or alleviation to an individual's concern, it is appropriate to refer to licensed, professional mental health counselors. These people will offer another area of support and effective intervention.

Signs that psychological care is needed:


  • thoughts about self-harm/suicide
  • poor concentration/memory
  • confusion
  • decision making process is impaired
  • negative self-talk
  • all-or-nothing thinking
  • obsessive thoughts/talk


  • disruption of daily activities
  • social withdrawal
  • irresponsibility
  • compulsions such as lying or stealing
  • legal issues/authority issues
  • decreasing academic performance
  • heavy substance use


  • feeling out of control
  • mood swings
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • agitation
  • extreme worry
  • excessive fear
  • low self-esteem
  • low motivation


  • sleep troubles
  • change in appetite/weight
  • shaking
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • G.I. troubles

Collaborative Efforts

Spiritual and psychological interventions are intended to compliment each other and can be powerful agents of change in people’s lives when used together. The following is a list of differences between spiritual and mental health counseling:

Church Leaders

  • Purpose: spiritual hurt/faith crises
  • Activities: encourage spiritual and religious practice (e.g., prayer and scripture study) and use words from the scriptures and of the latter-day prophets
  • Leaders are encouraged not to give too much advice
  • Refer to professional counselors as indicated by official Handbooks distributed by the church

Mental Health Professionals

  • Purpose: For psychological pain
  • Activities: discuss emotional issues, past trauma (if any), cognitive patterns and interpersonal concerns
  • These activities serve to help create self-awareness, healthier levels of self-acceptance, healthier thought patterns, a better ability to manage emotions and addictive behaviors.

Supporting Students with Mental Health Concerns

Sometimes you will have to invite reticent individuals to talk about their mental health concerns The following are some tips on how to begin a conversation. Please note that some individuals may not readily accept a referral to counseling.

  • Be direct
    • “I’ve been noticing ________, how are you feeling?”
    • “Have you ever had a period in your life before now when you’ve felt this way?
    • “What do you know about depression/anxiety?”
    • “Do you have an eating disorder?”
    • “Has anyone in your family gone through this before?”
  • Keep the discussion centered on their issue. This situation might evoke anxiety, but try not to make the conversation about your anxiety. Keep it relevant to their issues.
  • Talk to the person about what you have observed and why you are concerned.
  • Express your observations clearly-avoid judgment in the moment
  • Be genuine
  • —Listen - most people just want to be heard and validated in the moment
    • Reflect what you hear, “What I hear you to be saying is __________.”
    • Empathy, “That must be really tough for you.” or “It sounds like you’re feeling really overwhelmed.”
    • Avoid judgments or assumptions

Some dos and don’ts of helping out:


  • Spend time talking about their experiences
  • Listen intently-with care and concern:
    • maintain eye contact
    • use open-ended questions
  • Make the issue about the other person’s needs
  • Remain calm regardless of the individual’s reactions
  • Let them know you are noticing changes in their behavior
  • Encourage them to seek professional help (licensed metal health care provider).
  • Assist them in making initial contacts with health care providers.
  • Follow up-keep in regular contact and encourage them to get the help they need.


  • Expect them to follow through with everything you suggest
  • Pressure or guilt them into an appointment with a professional
  • Avoid or alienate them
  • Try to offer solutions to fix the problem (e.g., “stay busy”; “smile more!”; “snap out of it”; “suck it up…”; “you need to date more!”; etc.)
  • Help them avoid their issues
  • Assume the problem will go away