App State has implemented a program to provide students easily accessible mental health services during the pandemic.
Let’s TeleTalk, launched Aug. 25, is a program that provides students 20-minute video conference consultations with professional counselors on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Let’s TeleTalk is the virtual version of a service App State’s Let’s Talk, which was modeled after one of the same name developed at Cornell University. Nearly 100 universities have adopted the program, according to the Cornell Health website.
The goal of the program is to increase access for mental health assistance for students who may not want ongoing counseling, but do want to speak briefly with a professional counselor.
Let’s TeleTalk provides students the opportunity to gain a counselor’s perspective about a specific problem, to ask about how to help a friend or to simply give students the experience of talking with a counselor if they have never tried it.
The service is free and does not require an appointment, said Chris Hogan, director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center.
“In particular, we know that some cultures historically use counseling less, so we wanted to offer a type of service that some students may feel more comfortable accessing,” Hogan said.
The Counseling Center encourages students to use the Let’s Teletalk service and assures them that no problem is too small to discuss with a counselor.
“ If you are not sure if your problem is worth discussing in counseling, drop in to one of our Let’s Talk sessions. You might be able to address a problem there, or the counselor can talk with you about whether ongoing counseling could be helpful,” Hogan said.
COVID-19 related stresses are another problem the Counseling Center and the Let’s TeleTalk program can assist with.
“My mental health has definitely taken a toll during the pandemic,” said Erika Amundson, a sophomore. “Coming back to college and not being able to go into my normal routine really threw me off and caused a spike in my anxiety.”
The Counseling Center has experienced other students with similar feelings.
“Students accessing the Counseling Center have shared that COVID-19 has impacted them in ways such as lower motivation and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness, among several other impacts,” Hogan said.
There is no limit to the number of times a student can attend Let’s TeleTalk sessions. But the Counseling and Psychological Services website states, “This service is not intended to be a substitute for psychotherapy or emergency services and does not constitute mental health treatment.” However, Let’s TeleTalk counselors can help students secure long-term formal counseling.
Almost all of the services offered by the Counseling Center this semester will be virtual due to the pandemic.
“There is good research that supports the use of telemental health as an effective means of treatment. Given the current health risks with face-to-face meetings, this seems the best option under the current circumstances,” Hogan said.
An article published in scientific journal Acta Informatica Medica confirms this statement. The systematic review concluded that “Telemental health care can provide effective and adaptable solutions to the care of mental illnesses universally.”
Students may also have concerns about privacy; as online platforms are inherently less secure than in-person formats. The Counseling Center assures students that their sessions will be private.
“For any of our confidential services, such as individual or group counseling, the Counseling Center uses video software specifically designed for telehealth and the high confidentiality needed for telemental health counseling,” Hogan said.
The Counseling Center plans to return to in-person operations when they are able to. The Let’s Talk program also may expand to more in-person locations in the future when COVID-19 restrictions allow, which are yet undetermined.
“We have also talked about partnering with other departments or buildings to offer Let’s Talk around other parts of campus, such as the west side of campus,” Hogan said.
The Counseling Center encourages students to go to counseling.appstate.edu to learn more about the services they provide. Students interested in getting started with services can call 828-262-3180 to schedule an initial consultation by phone.