Staying inside and limiting the time allowed to go into public areas has put a halt on shopping and eating out at restaurants, but it also has stopped people from going to other important appointments, such as therapy sessions. This especially affects students who had these services easily available and without charge.
SFA Counseling Services has made counseling sessions available online with what they call, “teletherapy.” Although meeting in person is not an option anytime soon, students can still meet with a staff therapist via Zoom or over the phone if needed.
“It originally came about because it was a good way to serve people that don’t have access in their community to healthcare,” Director of Counseling Services, Jill Milem, said.
Teletherapy was available in the past to those who were attending online classes only; but since the campus closed, it is now available to all students.
“It opened up a possibility for us to continue to support our students, even though they weren’t here on campus,” Milem said.
Mental Health Counselor, Ronald Smith, said that students can call the Counseling Services office and schedule an appointment. Following the same format as regular sessions, staff counselors also make sure students are safe even at a distance.
“When we’re physically together [face-to-face] in the same room, we can kind of make sure they’re going to be okay,” Smith said. “And then, we’ll make sure if they need a higher level of care, like if they need help from our community mental health agency, [and] we can make sure the handoff takes place. Whereas someone hundreds of miles away, like in Houston or Dallas, can just hang up on us, and we don’t feel like we’d have that continuity of care.”
Students are asked to give their physical address and counselors are able to get the contact information of the local police department and other emergency services near the students. They are also asked the name and number of a person they consider to be an emergency contact, in case there are concerns of safety with permission.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, no one is certain when things will go back to normal, so students who are in need of counseling services are encouraged to reach out and sign up for teletherapy sessions to talk to someone who is willing to listen.
“We certainly want students to know that we’re available to them,” Smith said.
For those who aren’t able to make appointments but need help, Counseling Services has provided different tips on their website to help during this pandemic.
“I’d encourage people to not feel like they have to be in a terrible state in order to give us a call,” Milem said. “If they feel like, ‘Hey, this will be helpful to me!’ Then, I encourage them to call sooner rather than later.”