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Counseling Center transitions from the couch to the computer


(Courtesy Photo | CMU Counseling Center webpage)

CMU Counseling Center staff poses for a photo outside Foust Hall.

Students can now receive therapy in their homes after the Counseling Center transitioned to online services.

To minimize the risk of coronavirus infection, Central Michigan University’s Counseling Center transitioned to online-focused therapy sessions. Counselors are using video conferencing resources like WebEx to provide their patients with care.

The transition “wasn’t as much of an issue,” thanks to the Counseling Center’s Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) program, Melissa Hutchinson, executive director of the Counseling Center, said. TAO is an app designed to help patients cope with everyday worries outside of a typical therapy session. The app has programs to practice skills like stress management and mindfulness.

In addition, video calling is “efficient” as it still allows face-to-face conversation, Hutchinson said. Physician Assistant Tracy Castellon said in an email that it’s been “therapeutic” for her patients, as it still allows for both psychological and medicinal therapy. 

“With the pandemic, we’re all experiencing things we haven’t before,” Castellon said.

There is some risk to privacy with online therapy. While there is a confidentiality form that students receive, where they are located can have an impact on how confidential the session really is.

“Let’s say, if they decide to do video conference while they’re at Starbucks. That’s not necessarily a great choice on their end, unless they’re okay with that,” Hutchinson said. “We need to talk those things through so we can plan those things ahead of time and prepare for that.”

Out-of-state students who move home lose the chance of receiving counseling since counselors licensed in the state of Michigan can only practice within the state. Those students will still get connected to other students and have one or two sessions to help set up a plan, Hutchinson said.

“Our mission is to support student well-being and academic success, and we will continue to find ways to do that,” Hutchinson said. “Just because students are learning online and are away from campus, doesn’t mean that they don’t have need. We will figure out how to support them.”