Since its introduction in 2018, Therapy Assistance Online has been used by over 200 students and has provided an online alternative or sup-plement to in-person therapy at UTD.
The online therapy program, implemented by the Student Counseling Center, is a self-help program that all UT schools have access to. Stu-dents can watch educational videos about mental health concerns related to issues such as anxiety, depression and interpersonal relationship communication.
About 250 UTD students out of the 28,755 at the university have used TAO. When a student logs in, there are nine pathways or courses that they have access to. Among them are a ‘Let Go and Be Well’ course, a ‘Calming Your Worry’ course and a ‘Pain Management’ course. Each course contains multiple modules on subjects such as mindfulness, relaxation and anxiety reduction. Each module contains activities and vide-os that are tailored to issues such as facing your fears and reducing the negative impact of pain. To finish a pathway, one must complete all modules.
“A student can log in with their UTD email, and then they’ll have access to all these videos and all these different resources, and they just kind of choose which define most of them,” said Stacey Appiah-Opoku, a mental health professional at the Student Counseling Center. “I think it’s been a good option, especially for students who are not necessarily needing one-on-one … therapy but are kind of in the stage where they’re wanting to learn more about what might even be causing this anxiety.”
In a survey conducted by The Mercury, one student wrote that TAO was “crucial for students in need to be helped.” Three respondents who had not heard of TAO before the survey suggested that TAO be made more visible online, be mentioned in orientation or be advertised. One respondent wrote, “I had no idea this existed and would have taken advantage of it.”
“I think that’s really good feedback for us to hear. So, the ways that we have been advertising are just different flyers that we bring to all of our outreach events,” Appiah-Opoku said. “If a student was coming here and we referred them to TAO, we usually give students at the end of a session this little treatment plan, and on the back it also has information about TAO. I think students nowadays really are big on social media and things like that, so we now have an Instagram page — we already have a Facebook page, but this year we got Instagram.”
On the Student Counseling Center website, the TAO link is listed under self-help resources.
“I think that’s something that I can talk to others about — maybe making it bigger or on its own separate page,” Appiah-Opoku said. “We go to the international student orientation, the transfer student orientation and the incoming student orientation. We have it as a flyer, so I’m just curious if they maybe mean on a PowerPoint that everyone sees. (I) would love to hear more about the best way to get their attention to TAO because we want all incoming students to know about it.”
Appiah-Opoku said that TAO also contains meditation exercises and mood tracking and can be used by any UTD student.
“You could use it without ever stepping foot in our center, but then, also, a lot of the counselors here will recommend that their clients use it in between sessions or when we meet students for the first time,” Appiah-Opoku said. “In the initial evaluation, we might say, ‘Actually, start with this, because it seems kind of where you’re at,’ and then if this doesn’t really answer all your questions or if you need more support, then we could do a counseling group or individual counseling.”
TAO is also available as an app called TAO mobile on the iPhone and Android app stores. Students can sign up to get daily positive affirma-tions to encourage them and improve their mental health.
“I think in general when I bring (TAO) up to students, they like that it is … used at your convenience: you don’t have to schedule an ap-pointment; you can do it on your phone,” Appiah-Opoku said. “It’ll send you a little notification that says, ‘You’re doing the best you can today.’”