Baylor University to offer online mental health counseling as an option for students

Posted at 12:55 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:18-04

Starting this fall, Baylor University will offer online counseling in an effort to see more students and see them quickly.

The service called Therapist Assisted Online will be offered as an option for students with mild to moderate depression and anxiety, which are the top two reasons students come to the university counseling center, according to Baylor University.

“Students have very busy schedules so a lot of times what a student may just want a 20 minute or 30 minute video counseling session. Sometimes it may be hard for them to make it to the counseling center so this will fit really nicely into that option,” Baylor University Director of Counseling Services Dr. Jim Marsh.

The program uses educational or psychotherapy modules followed by online video sessions with campus psychologists that last about 20 minutes. The counselor can go online and check the work and the progress of students before meeting with the student.

"Universities, really all across the country, struggle with some different things. One of those is how do we see the number of students that are coming to us and see those students, and see them in a timely manner with the resources that we have," Dr. Marsh said. "This program allows us to see more students and see them more quickly. If you think about the traditional counseling appointment being about an hour, we'll be able to see two, maybe  three students in that same hour."

He said TAO will not replace in person counseling at the Counseling Center on campus, but rather would be offered as an option for some students after having a face to face meeting with them.

“We've already made a decision that they are at this appropriate level for this program. There are things that maybe if they were in crisis or they were at some risk of suicide or something like that, we are not going to put them in this program. We would have them seek individual counseling,” Dr. Marsh said.

The director of counseling services said 13 years ago, they had up to 350 students came into the counseling center, but that number has increased since then.

"If you look at every single year, you see a steady increase, year after year. I know during the entire time I've been here,” Dr. Marsh said.

According to Dr. Marsh, in the 2015-2016 academic year, 1,300 students received counseling, which is an increase of 8.5 percent in the 2014-2015 school year.

In the fall, Baylor University is expected to have 20 staff members, which will be double than the number they currently have. This will amount to one full-time staff member per 800 students.

The Counseling Center will have two offices on campus, including the current one at the Student Life Center, and a new one on Dutton Avenue, which will have a trauma recovery area. The university will hire people who have specializations in treating trauma, particularly to respond to victims of sexual assault.

The University of North Texas and the Texas A&M are the two other universities in the state planning to use TAO in the fall, according to Dr. Marsh.

Other colleges in our area, including the University of Mary Hardin Baylor and the McLennan Community College don’t have an online component to their counseling services. The Texas State Technical College currently offers counseling at some campuses. According to TSTC, counseling services are transitioning to a new counseling service, which will allow all students to have access to counseling services. A spokeswoman said at this time is unknown if the new service will include an online component. 

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