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Boise State Health Services adapts to online counseling for the fall semester

Photo by Drew Marshall

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, students who sought counseling services would attend in-person meetings and counseling sessions through Boise State, however, these services are now provided online. 

Telehealth provides virtual visits with healthcare providers through psychiatric counseling, medical counseling, and dietician services. Specifically, Telehealth provides individual, group, and couples counseling, as well as GradWell counseling, which provides students with the right academic support and well-being. 

Matt Niece, director of counseling services, discussed the changes Telehealth has made to ensure student and faculty safety. Students can connect to Telehealth services via zoom on a laptop or smartphone device. According to Niece, Telehealth uses a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) compliant zoom service, which makes students’ counseling sessions secured.

Since moving to online counseling, cancellations and no-shows for appointments have dropped to nearly zero, according to Niece. Telehealth provides services to anyone, anywhere and anytime, which makes services widely available to students. Telehealth bills student’s insurance, but will never turn someone away due to the inability to pay and will always find a way to support students in need.

Niece emphasizes the importance of maintaining contact with support systems, especially now. 

“Staying social, staying connected to your support is super important. In times like this, it’s difficult,” Niece said. “Think about tapping into the group counseling sessions that are offered through Boise State as a way to come together with your peers and help normalize some experiences we are struggling with.”

Niece explains that oftentimes when people feel alone, there is someone else out there who feels the same way and can help. 

“A lot of the times we feel like we are very isolated and alone, only to find out there are a lot of other people who are struggling in very similar ways.”

Morgan Snow, junior health science major, believes Telehealth services are beneficial to anyone who seeks medical or psychiatric counseling. Snow has not used Telehealth services before but is grateful these services are available through the university. 

Snow expressed that there is a sort of stigma around going to counseling sessions in-person, and having an online opportunity can open many doors for students. 

“I think there is a stigma to have to go see counselors and have to get yourself to go and sit in a pretty intimidating office,” Snow said. ”If you could just video chat, it would probably take a lot of stress away from someone who is already going back and forth with receiving counseling. I think it would be a really big positive for students.”

Snow emphasizes the importance of reaching out to Telehealth services if students are seeking help. 

“Everybody struggles and some people need help and that’s ok. Services are there for us and to help students. Reach out and get help so someone can help you get through stuff instead of just trying to take too much on your own,” Snow said. 

Ashton Sitko, senior health studies major, also believes Telehealth services create a positive environment for students. While she has not used Telehealth services at Boise State, she has used doxy.me, which is an online program designed to connect with doctors and health care providers. 

For Sitko, services like Telehealth at Boise State are beneficial and provide easy access to doctors and health care practitioners. Sitko’s primary health care provider is seven hours away from Boise, so having online connections to health care providers is essential. 

“For things as simple as a checkup or a medication appointment to get a renewed prescription, absolutely do it online if you can,” Sitko said. 

Sitko appreciates that Boise State Telehealth helps students connect to healthcare practitioners online and provides easy access to medical service.

“The fact that Boise State provides those services is super awesome. People, in general, get scared about going to the doctor because they are worried about money or what the doctor is going to say.” Sitko said. “Even if you have an hourlong phone call with your counselor or if you took a walk and called your counselor, I think even that would still be beneficial.”

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