US Schools Turn to Online Therapy Due to Counselor Shortage

In the US, teletherapy, or online mental health treatments, is becoming more and more common in public schools. According to the Associated Press, internet therapy is being provided to millions of pupils by at least 16 out of the 20 biggest public school systems in the United States. Schools have agreed to provider contracts worth over $70 million in those systems alone. As the market expands, venture capitalists are investing in new businesses since the business model is so profitable. But some experts are worried about the caliber of treatment provided by rapidly expanding tech corporations.

However, teachers claim that teletherapy is becoming more and more effective for many children. Additionally, there is a dearth of on-site therapists in schools. Children, particularly those in rural areas and lower-income schools, now have easier access to therapy because to online resources. Schools allow children to communicate with virtual counselors from home or during school hours. Ishoo, a Lancaster, California resident, is a mother of two. She found it difficult to support her second-grader who was experiencing extreme anxiety.

Ishoo enrolled her daughter in the teletherapy program her school district launched in the spring of last year. The girl confided in a therapist over the course of weekly video meetings at her house for a month. The student received anxiety-reduction strategies and resources from the therapist. Ishoo stated, “She discovered that asking for assistance is acceptable and that everyone requires extra support occasionally.” Like many other school systems, the 13,000-student one has psychologists and counselors on staff. However, according to Trish Wilson, the supervisor of counseling in Lancaster, it is insufficient to address the need.

It is not practical for therapists in the area to provide students with rapid care due to their large caseloads, according to her. Seldom do students have to wait a long time for an online class. In interviews, students and their parents revealed that they struggled with feelings of melancholy, loneliness, stress, and worry before turning to teletherapy. After online learning, it was exceedingly challenging for many to return to traditional classroom settings. Experts have cautioned about alarming rates of teenage melancholy, anxiety, and suicide, so schools are utilizing federal pandemic relief funds to pay for assistance. A lot of school districts are entering into agreements with commercial businesses. Others are employed by governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, or neighborhood health care providers.

Experts in mental health applaud the additional assistance but caution about potential dangers. One reason is that hiring psychologists and counselors for schools on-site is becoming more difficult. It is not beneficial to compete with telehealth services. Experts have cautioned about alarming rates of teenage melancholy, anxiety, and suicide, so schools are utilizing federal pandemic relief funds to pay for assistance. A lot of school districts are entering into agreements with commercial businesses. Others are employed by governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, or neighborhood health care providers.

Experts in mental health applaud the additional assistance but caution about potential dangers. One reason is that hiring psychologists and counselors for schools on-site is becoming more difficult. It is not beneficial to compete with telehealth services. Doreen Hogans stated, “We have 44 counselor vacancies, and telehealth definitely impacts our ability to fill them.” In Prince George’s County, Maryland, she oversees school counseling. According to Hogans, twenty percent of school counselors who quit have sought careers in teletherapy. Working hours at jobs are frequently more convenient than those at schools.

According to Kevin Dahill-Fuchel, the companies’ rapid expansion begs concerns about the caliber of their therapists and their background working with kids and privacy. He oversees Counseling in Schools, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance traditional, in-person mental health services in schools, as executive director. Hazel Health, situated in San Francisco, is one of the largest providers. CEO Josh Golomb stated that it began in 2016 with telemedicine health services in schools and moved on to mental health in May 2021. In more than 150 school districts across 15 states, it currently employs over 300 therapists who provide teletherapy.

More service providers are entering the market. According to Ashwin Vasan, the city’s health commissioner, New York City launched a free telemedicine therapy program for teenagers in November to assist remove access hurdles. TalkSpace is being paid $26 million by New York over a three-year period for a service that allows teenagers to download an app and communicate with therapists. Unlike other cities, New York provides the program to all teenagers, regardless of whether they attend home, public, or private schools.

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