Mark Bowden Getty Images/iStockphoto
Mark Bowden Getty Images/iStockphoto


Campus counseling gets an upgrade


July 28, 2016 09:52 AM

If you had a chance to take 20 minutes to video chat with a therapist from the comfort of your own home, would you take it?

Would your college-age student?

If they go to Texas A&M University, the University of North Texas or Baylor University, they will get the chance.

Therapist Assisted Online, an online counseling program, will roll out at the three Texas universities this fall.

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The program can benefit students who are dealing with mild-to-moderate anxiety or mild-to-moderate depression.

The program isn’t just HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing, but an interactive tool for students to work on different strategies for mental health.

It will have education modules for students to complete while keeping a daily log on their progress. Counselors will keep up with their clients through 10- to 20-minute video sessions.

Students who want to participate in the program still have to meet with a counselor at least once for a face-to-face consultation before they start working on the modules.

Traditional counseling will still be available for students.

“Students are really connected to electronics. And they easily speak through electronics. … That’s what they are used to. And this is a way for them to get counseling in a format they are comfortable with,” Maggie Gartner, executive director of A&M’s counseling service, said in an interview with KBTX/Channel 3 in Bryan.

The program can cast a wider net and bring counseling services to more students. Instead of speaking to a student with mild anxiety for the traditional 50 minutes, now a counselor can see three students in about the same time.

This efficiency will help make sure more students who need help can get help sooner, and the majority of them will most likely need it.

A Center for Collegiate Mental Health study says, “The demand for counseling center services is dramatically outpacing the growth of institutional enrollment.”

The program could help keep that demand in check.

Therapist Assisted Online is a good option, maybe even a great one, but it can’t be the only option.

And it can’t be the only improvement to mental health services on campus.

Not all students with anxiety or depression have a mild case. Some students need access to traditional methods, and those services need a face-lift.

But TAO is a start, one more universities need.

Twenty minutes with a counselor is better than none, and it could be the path to having a more integrated mental healthcare system on campuses.