With technology you can online shop, get food delivered, and communicate with almost anyone through your smartphone, so why would you not be able to have a therapy session too? The future of therapy is not cloning your counselor, but attending therapy via the Internet.
Chapman University’s Student Counseling Psychological Services partnered this fall with Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) Self-Help, a private online counseling service that is provided to Chapman students for free through their student email.
With the new addition of TAO and the departure of several faculty members from the Student Counseling Psychological Services, the way students access mental health resources is changing.
“I personally don’t need the level of help that some others might need, so I’m happy with what I get using TAO,” said sophomore business administration and psychology major Olivia Anderson. “It’s convenient and a good way for me to take a deep breath and just be with myself amongst the chaos of school and work.” Anderson also said that her friends also use TAO.
Student Counseling Psychological Services has traditionally provided face-to-face counseling, but TAO — which claims it is as a way to help with stress, anxiety, and communication — is provided to students online and through an app. TAO is not the first of its kind, but it is the only one that Chapman markets to its students, with advertisements being posted around the dorms and on campus.
College students are experiencing higher rates of mental illnesses than ever before, and more students are now seeking counseling, especially through on-campus services, states the American College Health Association. In 2018, 22% of college students were diagnosed with anxiety, and 17.3% were diagnosed with depression. Female college students report both of these diagnoses at over twice the rate of male college students, along with many other mental health-related issues.
Student Counseling Psychological Services has struggled to make time for every student who requests a session. The service operates on a first-come, first-served basis, but some students are turned down because there are not enough time slots available for all the students who might need one.
“They were very helpful and wanted to do the best that they could with my situation, I just wish that they could make the process faster for seeing someone,” said junior health science major Makayla Gallimore. “Students need help, some more urgent than others. So the process of it is not ideal for people who may want it quicker.”
To combat this, the counseling services implemented an attendance policy that states if students miss an appointment without giving notice, they may lose their time slot and counselor. If they miss more than one appointment, they may not be able to use counseling services at all.
Student Counseling Psychological Services has nine counselors, but with the almost 9,600 students enrolled at Chapman, there is 910 students for every counselor.
TAO not only combats the shortage of counselors, but it helps students who may be apprehensive to seek out traditional therapy at a cheaper cost. Normally the service is not free, charging members $30 monthly or $300 annually, according to its website. The average cost for an hour-long, traditional therapy session ranges from $60 to $120 with insurance according to Thervo, a data and mental health resource website, but many pay more, especially if they are uninsured.
Chapman’s Wellness Promotions Outreach Coordinator, Sam Martinez, said TAO is meant to be a convenient way for students to get psychological help outside the office. If a student does not have the time during the normal counseling office hours or does not feel comfortable going into the office, TAO is an available source for them.
“It’s not in replacement of traditional therapy, but it could be great for those who don’t have the time… it could also be a great complementary piece to therapy where they can also do tailored modules on their own,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that she understands the frustration some students may have with wait time, but because it is a university service, it is slower than an outside counseling service. She said that students who do not want to wait or go through the process can be directed to other counseling offices that work with their insurance companies.
Not everyone is happy with how Student Counseling Psychological Services has handled the situation. Luke Edwards, a junior stategic and corporate communications and political science double major, said that he does not prefer TAO because he would rather have the counseling services hire more counselors.
“I do think it’s a good idea to add, but the first priority should be getting more counselors for the growing community of Chapman. Traditional counseling is what helps most in my opinion, so I think solving that issue would be most effective for students,” Edwards said.
The rise in self-help apps and alternative online counseling options is no surprise considering the increase in mental health issues among college students. When there is a need from young people, there is typically an online option to fill it.