UA Little Rock provides free counseling services to students, but with Therapy Assistance Online, TAO, they hope to reach more members of the UA Little Rock community.
The program is an entirely online resource that can be used for self-help or with a counselor to supplement sessions or add to them. Counselors at UA Little Rock are pushing clients to use this in order to get the best help possible.
Director of Health Services and Counseling Services, Dr. Mike Kirk, described the grant work that went into purchasing this resource for UA Little Rock. When he was approached about writing the grant in 2018, he was only the director of counseling services. They didn’t get the grant in 2018 and were surprised to receive it after all this time.
Kirk chose TAO after he met the director of counseling at the University of Florida. The University of Florida was overwhelmed with requests for counseling sessions that the university was unable to meet. Even hiring new counselors was not a solution. There was not enough of a budget to hire enough counselors to meet the needs of the university.
“She realized she could not hire her way out of it,” Kirk said. “There was a waitlist of sometimes three weeks to a month to get in to see a counselor.”
The United Health Foundation released America’s Health Rankings data for 2020 that states, “While the majority of the population (70%) lives in close proximity to a mental health treatment facility (less than 10 miles), mental health provider shortages remain common.”
Within a pandemic, it is even harder to access resources, especially mental health resources that are already in high demand. The United Health Foundation also stated that increasing the use of telemedicine might help populations cope with this mental health provider shortage.
Kirk said TAO at UA Little Rock is, “a way to provide online resources for our students that might be beyond what we could possibly provide with our limited staff. Or, to supplement the work counselors can do when they are working with our students.”
Aresh Assadi, assistant director of counseling services, described the perks of TAO. It allows more control of the subject matter and can be done at their own pace. TAO also allows safe video-conferencing between counselors and clients.
“People can go in on their own time and listen to different videos on different subject matters that they might be dealing with on their own time,” Assadi said. “That will make it easier for them.”
For UA Little Rock students there is no need for an enrollment key as long as the user signs up using their UA Little Rock email. Students, staff, faculty, and alumni of UA Little Rock who still have access to and use their UA Little Rock email can access TAO.
Assadi said that TAO allows counseling services to make groups. If any group on campus or student organization is interested in a group where all members can work together on TAO, Assadi urges leaders to get in contact with counseling services. Any member of the group can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We would be happy to touch base with them and create programming just for them with their own enrollment key,” Assadi said.
Assadi and Kirk encourage students to follow @ualrwellness on Instagram to receive more information about resources that UA Little Rock Counseling Services is providing.
To access more information about TAO or register for TAO, UA Little Rock students can go to https://ualr.edu/counseling/tao/. There is no need to be referred to TAO by a counselor, it is open, free and accessible to all members of the UA Little Rock Community.