A "stepped" approach to mental health care that aims to cut wait times

Peter Cornish, director of the Student Wellness and Counseling Center at Memorial University, argues that a "stepped" approach is a better strategy for meeting student mental health needs, Tara Siebarth writes for University Affairs.

The Stepped Care model aims to solve a common problem in campus mental health care: demand for service is rising faster than colleges and universities can expand access, Cornish writes. He explains that the approach was developed in the United Kingdom about 20 years ago.

Now Cornish and his team have implemented a similar model at Memorial University at a time when demand for mental health services is higher than it's ever been before.

The Stepped Care model aims to get patients to see someone who can treat them sooner and to make patients active participants in their treatment plans.

Demand for mental health services is higher than ever

Under the Stepped Care model, mental health professionals start their work with new patients by explaining the different levels of care and discussing which one might be the best fit. At one end of the spectrum, the counselor might recommend some self-help resources to the student and invite them back later to talk about what they've learned.  At the other end, students might attend more traditional therapy or group therapy.

But Cornish shares that his team is innovating even on these traditional strategies, such as providing workbooks and online resources to students and expecting them to work independently between meetings with a practitioner.

Cornish explains that he and his team are expanding their program to include mental health awareness campaigns across campus. His team is also working on a dashboard that would give students feedback on how they're managing their mental health, similar to the kind of information that a Fitbit would provide about physical health (Siebarth, University Affairs, 5/16).

How colleges are expanding access to mental health services

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