UTSA is introducing Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), an online therapy program developed to address matters related to depression, anxiety and other issues students commonly experience. This program is a self-help service that provides tools to assist students with common mental health issues. 159 students currently take advantage of this service.

TAO helps students understand and respond to their emotions. The program provides access to therapy modules, skill-building exercises and resources that help improve coping skills. The modules can be accessed 24/7 through smartphones, tablets and computers. This technology is tailored to fit students’ schedules and individual needs. It is free, anonymous and self-directed. The modules and exercises can be used as many times as needed.

The requests for Counseling Services can be high at times causing students that need assistance to wait for help. “The reason to have TAO is that you can’t possibly have enough individual therapy available for everybody who needs help and we know that a lot of people don’t really need 50 minutes of weekly face-to-face therapy, but they need something,” Dr. Sherry Benton, founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, said.

Benton also spoke about when she was the director of a large counseling center and how they could never keep up with demand. “Making students who were struggling with things like depression wait is an unbelievably bad idea… I needed to find a way to get more resources, to more students, more quickly and to eliminate our waitlist,” Brenton said.

Founded in 2012 and implemented into UTSA as a part of a UT System Initiative in July 2018, TAO is available at over 150 public and private universities in the United States as well as Canada. Studies conducted in various countries have shown this technology to be as effective as an in-person individual therapy for common disorders. Students are able to choose what program works for them and TAO tracks their progress and improvement. Counselor approval is not required to access this technology.

“Many different types of student concerns are appropriate for TAO,” Melissa Hernandez, director of counseling and mental health services at UTSA, said. “We encourage all students who would like to improve their psychological or emotional well-being to explore the resources on TAO. Those who have more intense or acute mental health needs and those who are at risk of harming themselves or others should also engage with a mental health provider while using TAO.”

TAO is on the UTSA Counseling Services website, which provides the steps to sign up. The website also has information about the other programs Counseling Services offer such as individual counseling, group counseling, relationship counseling and more. All services are pre-paid through student service fees and are confidential. For more information on TAO at UTSA, visit https://www.utsa.edu/counsel/tao/index.html.

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