By Bailie Wilson
The Telehealth Counseling Clinic is a non-profit organization providing mental health services to underserved residents in the Brazos Valley area. Supervised by a doctoral-level staff, Texas A&M doctoral students in the APA-accredited counseling psychology program provide videoconference counseling services to individuals in need.
“The Brazos Valley is a health professional shortage area, more specifically a mental health shortage area,” explains Dr. Timothy Elliott, executive director of the TCC. “We don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet the needs of our populace, which is one of the main reasons we need this service.”
The TCC began in 2007 with a grant awarded to Leon County and the Center for Community Health Development to provide counseling services in rural settings. The project expanded, and currently, there are remote clinics located in Leon County (Centerville), Madison County (Madisonville), and Washington County (Brenham). A clinic will open in Grimes County (Navasota) as early as this summer.
“Anyone can participate,” says Elliott. “We talk to people on the phone and help them set up an appointment.” The TCC seeks to meet a variety of mental health needs for both adults and adolescents (age 13+) by providing services such as individual, group, and couples therapy, available in both English and Spanish.
“There are several aspects to the psychological practice,” explains Elliott. “One is to conduct a psychological assessment.” According to Elliott, the doctoral students, who are under rigorous supervision, not only provide therapy but can also conduct a psychological assessment at any of the rural sites. In the process, the psychology doctoral students receive the preparation and clinical experience they need for their future roles in mental health care.
As far as the cost of the service, at this point it is free. “We operate very similarly to the way a medical school operates with its residents,” says Elliott. “It’s a way for us to address the disparities in mental health services.”
“A lot of people have wanted this service, knowing it is needed, and people have dedicated a lot of resources and time to make this happen,” says Elliott. As the service continues to grow, Elliott says it is important to know it is a community effort that has made the TCC possible.
Elliott emphasizes the collaboration between leaders in the community, social services, and the Center for Community Health Development at Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health that helped establish the TCC. “We don’t operate in isolation…we operate with community support.”