Through seed money provided by foundations and donors, Carthage College is offering teletherapy to expand access to counseling services

Teletherapy expands access to student mental health support


Through seed money provided by foundations and donors, Carthage College is offering teletherapy to expand access to counseling services

Survey data from the Spring 2019 National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association indicated that in the previous year, three out of five students experienced overwhelming anxiety, and two out of five students were too depressed to function. Many struggled with these and other mental health concerns, including substance abuse. Student mental health has been a growing concern for higher-ed administrators in recent years… then the COVID pandemic took hold, bringing with it disruptions to all aspects of campus life, including decreased or no access for students to medical and mental health services. According to an April 2020 survey by Active Minds, a national mental health advocacy group, 80 percent of college students say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

As colleges and universities work to find a balance between pandemic-related safety and wellness protocols and student welfare, including student mental health, one option available is secure video- and message-based counseling, also known as teletherapy. One school that is finding success with this outlet for its students is Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.

Carthage College recently announced an initiative to give students easier access to mental health services through a new program that provides virtual teletherapy for students through an online platform called Uwill, giving all Carthage students access to on-demand counseling with licensed professionals through chat, video, phone, or text message.

“We were excited to launch this teletherapy initiative,” said Carthage President John Swallow. “We got going with it late in 2020 with the support of some donors and trustees who were interested in our addressing more mental health needs on campus. We received some donations to get started and currently have an 18-month pilot underway. We are excited that more students are being able to access services.”

Designed to empower students by enabling them to evaluate and select mental health professionals of their choosing, Uwill is a secure teletherapy platform that offers a full suite of communication modalities. The company is backed by Run-DMC founder and mental health advocate Darryl McDaniels, as well as education pioneers including Bright Horizons CEO Stephen Kramer and Princeton Review founder John Katzman.

As a relatively small school with 2,600 undergraduates, President Swallow observed that some of the challenges Carthage has had in providing adequate mental health services to students is the availability of counselors where the campus is located. Another is licensing requirements for the counselors themselves.

Campus closures that sent students home at the start of the pandemic in 2020, as well as the decision of students to continue remote learning from their home states even as some campuses have reopened this spring, led to a number of campus counseling centers across the country shifting to all-virtual services. This created difficulties with state licensure regulations, preventing a therapist licensed in the state where a college is located from providing care to a student in another state. Teletherapy platforms solve this problem.

“Particularly during the pandemic when we have some students remote, the licensing requirements for mental health delivery become complicated because we have students from multiple states,” Swallow explained. This platform “allows a matching process that takes care of that. It’s also an efficient way for appointments to be delivered relatively quickly. This wouldn’t be for an emergency situation, but generally within 24 hours. This is a way for us to address those needs more quickly.”

Swallow reports that the program is working well for Carthage College.

“We’ve been pleased with the uptake so far,” he said. “We started in February. Fifty-one students signed up in that month. Thirty had one appointment, 21 students have had more than one appointment.” About three-quarters of the participants cite stress and anxiety as their reason for utilizing the teletherapy option, Swallow continued, followed by depression at a little under half. “Ninety-two percent of the students utilize video chat… that seems to be the dominant method [of interaction] that is preferred.”

Teletherapy platforms are HIPAA compliant. Carthage’s director of the Health and Counseling Center receives utilization numbers only. She can access how many students sign up for sessions and how often, but she does not have access to students’ names.

Student response is positive. “So far we’ve gotten good feedback from students,” Swallow said.

“Help for those with mental health issues can be so very hard to access. This service fits perfectly with Carthage students’ needs and ways of communicating,” said parent Shanna Otto. “We are confident that this is a solution that will benefit many Carthage students so they can continue with their education.”

Carthage College selected Uwill as its teletherapy provider after conducting a survey of available services. Other platforms available for colleges and universities include TimelyMD, Mantra Health, BetterMynd, and META.

Swallow is confident that Carthage will continue to offer teletherapy to its students after the 18-month pilot with Uwill is complete. “Absolutely. Early results are good. If that keeps up—the availability, the access, the timeliness—if all those hold constant it will be a great solution for us after the pandemic.”

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool Media Contributors

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.