Talkspace announced its first partnership with a higher learning institution in September 2019. The partnership with Williams College is a direct response to the national need for better access to mental health services among the nation’s college students.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest higher learning institution in Massachusetts. The college has over 2,000 students and is lauded for its hands-on approach to learning, in which the achievement of academic goals includes active participation by students in faculty research. Students’ educational experiences are further enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which provides a close-knit community for students and faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions for U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial resources, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.
Despite these advantages, an estimated one in three college freshmen experience some kind of mental health disorder, and Williams College is no exception. Many students feel that they are not equipped with the necessary tools to manage the pressures of college life. With help from Talkspace, Williams College is taking a creative leadership role in reimagining the purpose and reach of college mental health services. Talkspace was founded by Roni Frank and Oren Frank in 2012 with the mission of making therapy available to all and eliminating the stigma associated with mental health. They are well on their way; the Talkspace web and mobile platform has already been used by over one million people.
“At Williams, we are well resourced and have a high utilization rate for our services: about 30 percent of our student population each year,” says Dr. Wendy Adam, the director of Integrative Wellbeing Services for Williams College. “Yet we continue to pursue ways to reach students who may not choose to access traditional mental health services, who study abroad, or have limited access to care when on school breaks.” To achieve this goal, Williams College aims to combine excellence in mental health treatment with multifaceted well-being promotion efforts.
This is where Talkspace fits into the plan. By providing access to Talkspace, Williams can expand its existing services to students anywhere and at any time of the year. Talkspace is a telebehavioral healthcare company whose signature psychotherapy product connects individual users with a network of over 5,000 licensed therapists through an easy-to-use and HIPAA-compliant web and mobile platform. With Talkspace, students can send their dedicated therapists unlimited text, video, picture, and audio messages from anywhere at any time. Therapists can engage with students on a daily basis, five days a week. Talkspace also provides psychiatry services, including prescription fulfillment, adolescent therapy, and couples counseling. All of this is in addition to having access to the college’s robust on-campus resources, which include one of the most well-staffed college counseling centers in the country.
Adam supports the integration of Talkspace into the campus’s available mental health services because the “demand for mental health services at colleges and universities in the U.S. continues to rise, and [Williams is] committed to providing a diverse portfolio of services and well-being promotion efforts that meet the unique needs of students.” Williams College believes that a mobile platform will drastically improve access to counseling for the growing number of students experiencing mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Currently, only 10–15 percent of students, on average, seek help from the counseling center. Students often cite clinician availability, time commitments, and the fear of asking for help as reasons to avoid using mental health services. Talkspace effectively eliminates these barriers to seeking help. Lynn Hamilton, the chief commercial officer at Talkspace, points out that “the flexibility Talkspace offers seamlessly integrates into the busy schedule of a college student, who may not otherwise have time to make regular appointments.” She also says that the company “couldn’t be more excited to begin [its] higher-education partnership with Williams College.”
Williams College is setting an example and tackling this national mental health crisis head-on. It has become the leader in developing new and creative ways to address the issue by providing ongoing, uncapped access to traditional mental health services on campus; by using Talkspace to expand access to care, even when students are not on campus; and through college-wide well-being promotional efforts aimed at developing students’ well-being skills and practices. The partnership between Williams College and Talkspace will provide services to students year round, including summers and study abroad semesters, at no cost to the students. Students can access the full range of HIPAA-compliant and secure Talkspace services, including messaging a therapist in full confidence. They also have full control when it comes to choosing a therapist, maintaining the relationship, or requesting a change at any time.
The everyday pressures and stress of student life have continued to grow, but the access to mental health services has failed to keep pace. Students have now lived their entire lives with computers and digital technology that makes their lives easier and more manageable; it’s about time that Talkspace introduced them to an online resource to help them cope with life’s growing demands.