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Online video counselling: a solution with limitations

Counselling on the web is a fix for long wait times for in-person counselling sessions

Students surround a computer in the library at Langara. Photo by Kurtis Gregory.
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Reported by Kurtis Gregory

While students at Langara may have to wait weeks for an on-campus counselling appointment, the Langara Students’ Union’s health plan includes online counselling services which could offer a more immediate solution.

According to Michael Krausz, who does research and development around online mental health at UBC, web-based services are a potential solution for overburdened counselling departments.

“What you want as a therapist is to use most of your time with the most severe cases, those patients who are in a high need,” Krausz said. “So if you’re able to serve those who are in a mild to moderate need with, for instances, an online platform, then you have more time for other patients which probably need more face time with you.”

Online counselling timeline

Langara students have had access to a discounted online video counselling service through the LSU’s health plan since 2015. With Studentcare, students can speak to a licensed psychologist through online video-call sessions.

However, Krausz said the vast majority of current online mental health services are incapable of providing detailed solutions.

“There is only a very small percentage which address several needs, from an assessment to an intervention to informed decision making,” he said.

Increase in students seeking help

According Sophia Haque, who works for Studentcare, antidepressant usage among post-secondary students has been on the rise, while psychologist and counsellor visits have been rising as well, including at Langara.

Even so, many Langara students aren’t aware the online service is offered to them, but some are still glad they have access if they need it.

“It would be good to know that the college supported me,” said Connor McDonald, a 21-year-old criminal justice student at Langara. “It’s definitely huge knowing that it’s there and available.”

Connor McDonald, criminal justice student at Langara College.

Other students at Langara said they might even prefer online counselling over conventional services.

“I guess it’s a good idea, because we don’t really have a lot of that, especially in college,” said Alicia Stevens, a 19-year-old English student at Langara. “Stress really gets to people and I think that’s a root cause of mental health problems.”

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