New Resources Assess Teletherapy Vendors and Effective Mental Health Practices
June 05, 2023

​As the mental health crisis continues to impact higher education and entire campus communities, ACE is offering several resources focused on considerations to find the best-suited teletherapy vendors to support students, as well as assessing what programs and interventions have an evidence base that supports student mental health. These resources are designed to help senior leaders ask concrete questions and to discern what evidence-supported strategies can help meet increased student demand for mental health services.

Data from the Healthy Minds Study—a national survey of student mental health—have shown steady increases in the share of students who are reporting high levels of distress, particularly in recent years. For example, from 2014 to 2022, the percentage of students with significant symptoms of depression rose from 20 percent to 44 percent, and the percentage of students with significant symptoms of anxiety rose from 20 percent to 37 percent over the same time period.

While campus communities are using a variety of preventive intervention strategies that might be helpful, it is often unclear whether and to what degree these interventions are effective. ACE’s brief, What Works for Improving Mental Health in Higher Education?, is a comprehensive review of the evidence regarding higher education programs, services, practices, and policies that institutions have employed to influence student mental health. It summarizes which programs are most effective, ineffective, and what has promising evidence to help leaders discern how to best invest their time and resources.

Strategies to improve student mental health must be guided by data and evidence to the greatest extent possible to maximize returns on investment, according to the report. The authors offer the following recommendations, which will help leaders make evidence-based investments in proven interventions:

  • Use data to regularly assess population-level needs, priorities, and progress
  • Invest substantially in strategies with proven effectiveness
  • Revise or discontinue strategies with proven ineffectiveness
  • Invest modestly in strategies with promising evidence, then evaluate and reassess
  • Contribute to a broader movement toward an evidence-informed approach to student mental health

The corresponding webinar discussion around the brief will take place on June 14, from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. (ET). It will feature a discussion with the brief’s three authors—click here to learn more and to register.

Mental Health and Teletherapy

In response to the rise in mental health distress among students, many colleges have hired additional counselors, but many institutions are still struggling to keep up with demand. As a result, a host of teletherapy vendors have entered the market and are looking to fill the gap, according to ACE’s brief, also part of the Mental Health in Higher Education series, Critical Considerations Before Contracting With a Teletherapy Vendor.

Counseling center directors noted that in 2019–20, prior to the pandemic, centers conducted an average of 17 teletherapy sessions, while in 2020–21 that number increased to 1,164 sessions, according to the report. Teletherapy is understandably appealing to any campus that has overwhelming demand, particularly for institutions that don’t have counseling centers.

But the variety of services teletherapy vendors offer—from chatbots to virtual therapy—can also be overwhelming. This brief offers a roadmap for campus leaders who are considering teletherapy providers by weighing the benefits and drawbacks, outlining key factors each campus should consider, briefly reviewing questions to gain student input, and raising essential questions and concerns to bring to potential vendors.

Below are a few questions that an institution should consider when assessing a teletherapy vendor:

  • Are all clinicians who may be providing clinical services licensed?
  • Are all clinicians trained to understand college student concerns and the developmental challenges of this age group?
  • Does the platform meet the needs of the diverse student body by including clinicians who are racially, ethnically, or otherwise diverse?
  • Does the platform include clinicians who are licensed in states across the country?
  • Does the vendor provide an increase in capacity during high-stress times of the academic calendar, including midterms and finals?

The corresponding webinar, featuring a discussion around the teletherapy brief, will take place on June 22, from 12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m. (ET). Click here to learn more and register.

The Mental Health in Higher Education series highlights and discusses critical issues around mental health for faculty, staff, and students. Each webinar is designed to complement topical briefs released by ACE throughout 2022 and 2023. Topics include faculty and staff burnout, critical questions to ask before contracting with a teletherapy provider, evidence-based practices that support mental health, and information from counseling center directors on what they want leaders to know and what they should do about mental health.