The Student Counseling Center (SCC) will be fully operational for 2020-2021 providing all services remotely through a HIPAA compliant version of Zoom videoconferencing software. We will provide individual, couples, and group counseling along with various workshops promoting mindfulness and other skills for sustaining mental health.
To promote the health and safety of students and staff, the SCC will not offer drop-in services for the spring 2021 semester. Students seeking our services should call our main number (865-974-2196) to arrange a brief assessment by videoconference or phone. In response to student feedback, these assessment videoconferences will be scheduled for 45 minutes in order to allow the therapist to get a more complete picture of the student’s needs and for the student to have more time to share their concerns. To make the best use of the time, students are required to complete the initial paperwork prior to scheduling an initial brief assessment appointment.
During the initial assessment, the student and therapist will collaborate to determine the most effective SCC service to address the student’s needs. If SCC services are not the best fit for the student’s needs, the therapist will assist the student in finding other campus resources or off-campus providers.
Classes are meeting in person, why isn’t the Counseling Center?
- Guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and from the UT Emergency Operations Center (EOC) advise the use of telework as much as possible during the current pandemic. Since telemental health is generally as effective as face to face services, it is simply a safe and effective alternative to riskier in-person sessions.
- Face-to-face therapy sessions with two to four persons within a small office for 45-50-minutes poses a much higher risk of exposure than what one might encounter in a classroom or other meeting space.
- Telemental health provides better protection for staff and students who may represent vulnerable populations due to either age or preexisting health conditions. It also protects family members or roommates living in the home environment.
- Telemental health provides the flexibility needed to maintain continuity of care for our clients during an ever-changing pandemic environment. We have found that students adapt well to telemental health when provided consistently. Transitioning back and forth from one mode to the other may disrupt the therapeutic process more than consistent telehealth.
Are services delivered by remote technology as good as face-to-face?
- The effectiveness of mental health services provided remotely online (often referred to as telemental health) is well established. Research reviews of telemental health consistently support the use of telemental health services to improve access, reduce costs, and support underserved populations. Doing telemental health well involves appropriate technology, training for staff, a safe and private space for clients, and “buy-in” from both clients and therapists. As with any change, openness and a positive attitude go a long way toward making telemental health work effectively.
What if my living situation is not private enough for telemental health?
- If you live on or near campus, we have a number of areas where you can reserve a private office space for a telemental health session. We will also have some spaces in the Counseling Center available for students. Just let us know when you call.
- Students who live away from Knoxville should alert the therapist of their situation during the initial brief assessment and the therapist will assist in looking at options.
Have your therapists received appropriate training for telemental health?
- While our therapists had to work quickly in the spring of 2020 to obtain impromptu training in the provision of providing telemental health, organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) have provided free webinars and articles designed to help professionals all over the country get “up to speed.” Over the summer our staff continued to train and learn, worked to improve our technology and procedures, and actively prepared to provide remote services as our foremost approach in the year ahead. While we will continue to train and improve, we are well prepared to provide competent and effective telemental health services.
What if I am in crisis and need to talk to someone face to face?
- Most mental health crises can be managed very well over remote technology. National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the Contact Care Line, the Crisis Text Line, and our own 974-HELP referral line are forms of telemental health that effectively work with mental health crises regularly. They exist because they are not only effective but also much more accessible than an in-person appointment. Students who are experiencing a mental health crisis are encouraged to call us at 865-974-2196 or 974-HELP (4375) and we will help you get connected to the support you need.
- In the unlikely event that we cannot manage a crisis remotely, or if the student and therapist prefer to meet in person, we have the capability of doing so on a limited basis. With masks and a plexiglass panel, we can set up a space that is reasonably safe for clients and staff when an in-person meeting is clinically necessary.
- Students who are in immediate danger of suicide or life-threatening self-harm should call 911 or have someone transport them to the nearest Emergency Room.