TAO expands services, fills counseling demand

This past fall, the McGrath Health and Wellness Center launched a new counseling program known as Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) as an option for students facing mental health challenges. 

Currently, there are approximately 160 students participating in the online counseling services.

Available to any Xavier student, the program offers support in a variety of topics, including stress and anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.

The program is specifically geared toward college-aged students and can either be used as a self-guided tool or in collaboration with counseling sessions. Students can register online with their Xavier email address and do not need to contact McGrath or Psych Services to use TAO.

According to Dr. Timothy Barron, the Director of Counseling Services at McGrath, TAO is part of the “comprehensive approach to meeting the growing needs of wellness on campus.”

Barron worked closely with departments on campus such as residence life, athletics, student affairs, the dean’s office and others when arranging for the program to come to Xavier.

Barron said that TAO’s online setup allows student tosaccess the service 24/7 and use it at their own pace. It may be more convenient for students who have busy schedules or students who are not comfortable with counselors.

Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Jennifer Droege explained that TAO is useful for reaching more students while also accomodating for the various mental health needs of students.

“Students have different needs and if there are ways for students to receive services in different ways, it allows us to serve students differently,” Droege said.

Barron also agreed that online counseling enables more students to be served, and will be beneficial in dealing with the anticipated increase in students in coming years.

Xavier has mande other attempts this year to provide more mental health services to students as demand has increased. McGrath has contracted additional therapists to extend the available hours of counseling.

The program has shown positive results in relieving stress and anxiety. Students who have used the program claim it was helpful in alleviating symptoms.

Online counseling is not unique to Xavier, as a number of other universities around the country are taking a similar approach to mental health.

TAO is not the final step toward enhanced mental health services on campus.   McGrath plans on releasing a telehealth program in the next few years. A telehealth program would be direct online counseling, allowing students to receive personalized time with a therapist over video-chat, in conjunction with completing modules on TAO.

At the Community Discussion on health and wellbeing hosted by BDA, Dean of Students Jean Griffin also shared that the university will be looking to hire more mental health professionals in the future.

By: Alex Budzynski | Staff Writer