The Texas A&M Telehealth Counseling Clinic is continuing to expand, serving the needs of multiple communities in rural Texas.
The Telehealth Counseling Clinic (TCC) is a nonprofit clinic organized by A&M professors in 2009 to serve the mental health needs of surrounding counties. The clinic is a partnership between A&M’s College of Education and Human Development and the College of Medicine. It allows doctoral students under the psychology doctoral program to put what they’ve learned in practice and gain experience serving others.
Director of Telebehavioral Health Dr. Carly McCord said TCC offers various counseling services, and what sets them apart from other clinics is the ability to do so via video calls that are just as effective as traditional services.
“We have many counseling services,” McCord said. “Our counselors offer assistance with issues ranging from depression to anxiety, relationship concerns and trauma. When medications are needed, we coordinate an appropriate referral. Research, including our own, has shown over and over that tele-counseling services are as effective as in-person services.”
Serving Leon, Robertson, Madison, Grimes, Burleson, Washington, Austin and Brazos counties, the clinic provides counseling services previously unavailable to rural areas. To access these counties, the TCC has community partners which serve as physical telehealth sites. One such place that has partnered with the TCC is Faith Mission.
Executive Director of Faith Mission Randy Wells said in an email to The Battalion that Washington county has benefited greatly from the TCC, which has expanded their capabilities to offer mental health services. Faith Mission provides emergency assistance and paths long-term improvement. Its services include a shelter for the homeless, food pantry, a job training program, health clinic and a WIC program.
“The Texas A&M University Telehealth Counseling Clinic has filled a huge gap as it relates to counseling and mental health services in Washington County,” Wells said. “Since 2013 the partnership with TCC and Dr. Carly McCord has [added] tangible resources for the homeless and those in mental distress, providing them with great quality of life.”
Grimes Health Resource Center and Madison Health Resource Center Executive Director Lara Meece said in an email to The Battalion that they have made space for Telehealth’s counseling and that TCC provides services that patients that would typically have to travel to obtain.
“We work with partners to meet the needs of those people who have fallen on hard times,” Meece said. “[Those] who have had a tragedy, or low-income people. We offer space for other agencies to meet with clients in our office, such as legal aid, Scotty’s House, SARC, etc. We have space for the Telehealth’s counseling. We try to bring in resources that clients would have to leave the county to get.”
Counseling Psychology doctoral student Katie Console said that she is better-prepared thanks to the program as it allows doctoral students to practice with real scenarios and individuals.
“I first started working in the clinic about two years ago,” Console said. “It’s been a really rewarding experience, and I’ve definitely learned a lot. I don’t know if I would be able to get this anywhere [else]. We’re one of the few, if not only, programs in the US that has a training model like this, where I get to learn how to use this platform for counseling and how to do it well.”
Console also said that a lack of available mental health services is something with which rural Texas is struggling. By offering video counseling, they reach a practical and effective compromise, where they can still help communities can still be helped across geographical distances.
“It’s important because options increase access,” Console said. “The biggest problem we are dealing with in Texas is that there is disproportionate population [ratio] of mental health providers and the people. Those communities can’t support the salaries required of some of these people, or psychologists may not be willing to move into the middle of nowhere. But those people still need access”
As for student mental health, McCord also said that Aggies have resources available with the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which can be not only for them, but for friends that they are concerned about. Information is available online at caps.tamu.edu.
“Counseling and Psychological Services provides goal-oriented counseling, Helpline provides after hours trained non-judgmental support,” McCords said. “And Sanvello is excellent smartphone app resource.”