The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) has recently introduced new mental health resources for New College and University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee students, including new support and psychotherapy group sessions as well as a new online resource, Therapy Assistance Online (TAO). The spike in new resources is partly a result of the recent report released by the Board of Governors and New College’s desire to improve access to mental health treatment.
The CWC has issued a “Menu of Groups,” which list new support and psychotherapy groups along with a brief description of each. For example, the description of the Body Image and Healthy Living group is: “Learn ways to live a healthy, balanced and positive life while exploring and challenging messages that have shaped your self-concept.” Support groups do not require any commitment—except for Stress Management and Resiliency Techniques (SMART)—and are not capped. They are open to all students and are structured for participants to come and go as they please.
Psychotherapy groups are limited to eight students who are committed to attending the weekly. A group screening is also required, which consists of clarifying goals and expectations for participation, possible benefits and ways to work through group anxiety.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)
The CWC has also introduced TAO, an online therapy resource consisting of interactive modules in which participants watch videos, complete associated exercises and have the option to meet with a professional clinician via videoconference. The online program offers a self-help program, which can help individuals solve a variety of problems without help from a counselor. According to the NCF website, weekly exercises take 30-40 minutes to complete and daily exercises can be completed on an array of devices. It also advises that the treatment is most effective when an entry is made two or more times per day. Each entry takes about one to two minutes to complete.
“TAO is an empirically validated treatment created by the University of Florida (UF),” said Dr. Anne Fisher, Program Director of the CWC.
Fisher also explained that many other public universities have adopted the program as an available resource for their students.
The program utilizes a counseling method called low-intensity and high-engagement therapy and combines online educational modules and practice tools with short phone conversations and/or video conferences with a therapist. The company claims that when UF began offering TAO to its students in 2013, these students showed significantly more improvement than the students treated with traditional face-to-face psychotherapy. After noticing these dramatic improvements, TAO began receiving inquiries from other universities about acquiring and using the online platform.
“The rise in demand for counseling services, combined with the lack of resources, is the reason I founded TAO – to give students the mental health resources they need, where they need them and in a way that works for them,” TAO’s Founder and CEO Dr. Sherry Benton said in an email interview. “With TAO, New College of Florida students are provided an opportunity to learn stress management, mindfulness skills, problem-solving on their own time and develop more helpful thinking patterns.”
TAO can be used while seeing a counselor on campus, complementing traditional therapy sessions. The program is open 24/7, which allows more leniency for students with busy schedules.
“A common issue on college campuses is the counselor to student ratio,” Bention said. “So many times, a student can’t be seen until later in the semester putting their success at risk. TAO’s self-help resources can be accessed 24/7 can make a huge difference in the life of a student.”
When asked how TAO can benefit NCF students specifically, Benton said that “TAO Connect works in conjunction with the New College of Florida [CWC]. Students either have the option to utilize TAO with an on-campus counselor, in which the video conferences are a supplemental aspect of the student’s session or they can use the self-help option which consists of educational and interactive modules, practice tools, journals and progress measures.”
Information for this article was gathered from ncf.edu and taoconnect.org