Online counseling and self-help services available for students

By: Anna Radinsky/Assistant News Director


The University has plans to make fully online therapy sessions available to all students– not only to fully online students that currently have access.

Counseling and Psychological Services currently employs five counselors that are available to fully online students, but more are being trained as plans to expand online therapy continues to solidify.

“At one point we want to open it up to everyone but there’s a lot of logistical stuff so we want to slowly roll it out,” said Wendy Ordóñez, coordinator of outreach and educational media for the CAPS Victim Empowerment Program.

“In the future we’re working towards offering online counseling for everyone because it’s definitely happening. It’s more inclusive, which is what we want.”

The online therapy sessions are expected to be opened to the entire University population sometime next year, according to Ordóñez.

Current online programs that are available to all students include Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) and TAO Self-Help (TAO-SH).

TAO allows students to review online modules while participating in weekly video conference sessions with CAPS clinicians.

To sign up for TAO, students need to make an account with a clinician in the CAPS office on the Modesto Maidique Campus in Student Health Center 270 or the Biscayne Bay Campus in the Wolfe University Center 320.

TAO-SH allows all students to engage in the same modules and activities as TAO, but without engaging in weekly video sessions with clinicians.

TAO-SH was released after TAO and received wide attention from students soon after.

“When we opened it up after two months we got 300 people, so it’s great,” said Ordóñez. “Students are definitely utilizing [CAPS resources], so that’s why we’re investing even more for this type of stuff.”

Anonymous and confidential self-screening programs have also been a popular resource for students to remotely determine if they have symptoms for depression and anxiety.

“[The online screenings] have been going on for years and we actually got more than 5,000 screenings taken last year,” said Ordóñez.

Other fully available online programs include four-minute podcasts, relationship quizzes produced by the Victim Empowerment Program, online workshops and resources, and others.

CAPS has also created a new simulation software program, called Kognito, that is currently available to fully online students but will be fully released to all students in October.

The program will simulate difficult conversations to teach students, faculty and staff on how to communicate with others without causing offense, and to overcome their apprehensions in conversation.

Kognito will also teach on how to show care and concern to those that are dealing with mental health issues or difficult situations.

The introduction of new programs come from CAPS’s mission to provide mental health services for all types of students.

CAPS started online screenings and programs five years ago that then became more accessible on different mediums, especially cell phones.

“Everyone has a mobile device now, so that’s how students access information,” Ordóñez said. “We need to be relevant and we need to provide something for [students].”

A challenge for having only online programs is not being able to get the full experience of a face to face therapy session with a clinician, according to Ordóñez.

“There are a lot of cues and things that you can get from sitting with someone that you don’t get when you’re online,” Ordóñez said. “But we know that that’s changing and it’s not necessarily possible [to meet in person], so that’s why we’re adjusting.”

Another challenge is trying to reach the fully online student population, who are usually professionals, to be aware of CAPS services.

Advertisements of different services are made specifically for different age groups and are sent to the FIU Online office to be distributed on their website.

FIU Online success coaches are also trained by CAPS staff members to create awareness of services and how to refer students.

The current and upcoming programs seek to reach all communities within the University, including veterans, the LGBTQ population, and fully online students.

For more information about CAPS online self help programs or how to refer a student, users can go to


Featured image courtesy of CAPS

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