Adapting Community Colleges’ Mental Health Services via Cybercounseling and Online Student Support Groups

Jesse Alvarez and Dr. Abraham Korah, The Honors College, Lone Star College-North Harris, 2700 W W Thorne Dr, Houston TX 77073

This study investigated what online services were best suited for adapting a college’s mental health services for a growing online student population. Current scholarship on US adults and in-person university students indicates that the benefits of cybercounseling and online peer support groups could address client mental health needs. This study investigated these claims for online community college students through an interview with an organization's campus representative that handles college student counseling and mental health services, in order to better understand the impact of the recent migration of their services online. Next, Liebowitz’s Social Anxiety Scale and a demographic questionnaire were used to assess the mental health and online involvement of students enrolled in online courses. Major findings were that: (1) anonymity was a unique aspect of computer-mediated communication, (2) online environments were just as effective as face-to-face for client satisfaction and finding interpersonal connections, and (3) cybercounseling and online peer support groups could be the gateway to increased access for socially isolated individuals. As COVID-19 has led colleges to offer counseling services online, findings from this study suggest two recommended implementations: (1) integrated online student support group modules (using forums and direct-messaging) in learning management systems, and (2) trained student volunteers for groups based on their affiliation with mental health organizations, credit hours in psychology courses, or experience with mental health. Recommendations for further research include an examination of how students with developmental disorders, such as autism or Asperger syndrome, may find digital support groups or cybercounseling beneficial. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Jesse Alvarez

Institution: Lone Star College System The Honors College

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7062