Counseling Center partners with Therapy Assistance Online


Texas State Counseling Center

The Texas State University Counseling Center has partnered with TAO, an online program that provides support for anxiety, depression and other common concerns.

Mayela Ramirez

Texas State students can now avoid the troubles of booking an appointment at the counseling center with an online therapy program the center is implementing to accommodate busy students.

For fall 2017, Texas State has partnered with Therapy Assistance Online to help students who seek counseling services but find they are too restrained by tight schedules to make an appointment at the counseling center. This problem is compounded by the fact counselors on campus are often packed with booked appointments.

Texas State participated in a 2013 survey performed by the American Psychological Association, which found mental health issues were a growing concern of 95 percent of the counseling center directors surveyed.

The loaded schedules of both students and college counselors are exactly why Sherry Benton, a psychologist working at the University of Kansas Counseling Center, was inspired to create TAO in 2012.

Benton, who has previously written for Psychology Today, said she wanted to create a program that gives students the immediate help on-campus counseling centers may not consistently be able to offer.

“It’s so common, especially for someone who has anxiety, that when you’re really in the middle of struggling with it, it might be two in the morning,” Benton said. “If your appointment is the next day at 10 in the morning, you might not feel all that anxious by then, so having that resource at your disposal online can be more effective.”

Benton, along with the dean of the College of Education at the University of Kansas, partnered with videographers, programmers and web developers to create an online therapy program specifically designed for college students.

TAO, which is completely free for Texas State students, offers self-help videos on a variety of topics. These include, but are not limited to depression, relationships, anxiety, stress, decision making and alcohol abuse.

Sergio Barrios, a senior counselor at the Texas State Counseling Center, wants to help increase students’ awareness of this free mental health resource.

“In order to reach out to more students, since some might not necessarily feel comfortable coming to the counseling center, we wanted to use this new method to reach out to those that don’t come here,” Barrios said. “Some students even use this resource between their (counseling) sessions as a supplement.”

The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted a 10-year long study that showed the number of students using mental health services has increased from 19 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2017. However, even though the amount of students reaching out for support is expanding, College Stats reports 50 percent of students continue to struggle with anxiety on a daily basis.

Julianna Keeton, computer science junior, said the online mental health resource could really benefit college students and have a positive impact on their lives.

“I think (TAO) is good because of the mass amount of people who need counseling but are only allowed a certain amount of counseling visitations per year,” Keeton said. “Having self inputting data at your fingertips is more convenient.”

Students and faculty members can sign up on the TAO website using their Texas State email address to access the program. Once users have created an account, they can select which topic they would like to focus on; each topic has 12 interactive modules and can be completed at any pace. Users are encouraged to fill out the “wellness survey,” located in their profile to regularly monitor their progress.

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