As a former counseling services director, I understand the fear that many directors feel when the possibility of partnering with a telehealth vendor is discussed on campus. You may be wondering, Is the institution trying to outsource counseling? Will I lose staff positions? Will I lose funding? Does my institution not recognize nor appreciate the challenging and complex work that counseling centers do day in and day out? Will the partner work well with my current staff and our policies and scope of practice?
You don’t want to be replaced and you want to protect the administrative burdens that are placed on your staff. I know that feeling; I’ve been there. But all across the country, counseling centers are understaffed, under-resourced, and overwhelmed with the volume of students seeking care – and hiring in higher education is becoming exceptionally challenging. Considering a telehealth partner can actually help you increase access to services and build capacity for your campus, while lightening the load put on your counselors.
The benefits of a telehealth partner for the students is clear. Having increased access to therapy and psychiatric services increases the overall number of available appointments, so students may be seen more quickly. Extended evening and weekend hours supports students who may be adult learners, working students, commuters, or student-athletes. And finally, having a diversity of providers for students to choose from increases the likelihood that they will find a good fit with their provider.
On-campus staff are invaluable for their boots-on-the-ground crisis intervention, consultation with campus partners and parents, Behavioral Intervention Team collaboration, and preventative workshops and outreach events. A telehealth partner should recognize this work as valuable and necessary, and be willing to work collaboratively with your staff to achieve desired outcomes that fit within your campus goals.
Telehealth Supports Retention and Student Outreach Efforts
One of my biggest concerns as a counseling center director was staff recruitment and retention. Meeting demand is already challenging, but losing a staff member – or multiple staff members – burdens remaining clinicians, raises wait times for students, and takes time away from the director who needs to be focused on supporting the staff, building relationships, outreaching students, and maintaining protocols.
This is why a telehealth provider can be so beneficial. Not only does Mantra help backfill positions with highly trained, diverse clinicians, but the company works collaboratively with existing staff to ensure that all mental health protocols, crisis response plans, and care models are incorporated into their care delivery.
You also have to worry about the students who never visit counseling services. As a counseling center director, you often see students coming in during a crisis or for regular counseling, but how many students who likely need services aren’t coming in at all? Not every student can access counseling services and not every student is aware of the free care available. This is why it’s important to work with a telehealth provider. Teletherapy and telepsychiatry can extend your hours, increasing access for the students who may be hesitant to come in-person or unable to, and offer students more diverse providers who reflect their unique identities. This additional support also gives directors more opportunity to conduct outreach and engage with students who wouldn’t otherwise engage with the center.
Mantra Works with Counseling Centers, Not Against Them
I understand the fear of being replaced by a third-party provider, but I can assure you that the benefits far outweigh the concerns. Mantra takes a collaborative approach to care and acts as an extension to your on-campus center so students receive the same quality care that you already provide.
Counselors and directors have the ability to communicate with telehealth providers at any time to discuss diagnoses, medications, side effects, and other pressing concerns around student care and treatment – and these telehealth providers work within your campus protocols to ensure consistency and quality of care.
As we all know, clinicians are stretched thin and burning out at increasing rates. Mantra eases the administrative burden on staff by filling in care gaps, conducting outreach to students who miss an appointment, and coordinating referrals to clinical specialists when indicated. This extra layer of support and care for students mimics what you are already doing within your center, and resonates with the high-quality level of care you desire for each and every student.
The landscape of student and campus mental health needs is constantly shifting and evolving, and having a telehealth partner that you can join forces with and integrate into your existing workflows is crucial.
– Liz Jodoin, PhD, LPC, LCMHCS, former Director of Counseling Services at the University of South Carolina Upstate