Mental Health On-Demand

Updates to Point Loma Nazarene University’s Educational Access Center (EAC) were implemented over the summer to make healthcare more accessible for students this fall. 

Another healthcare update has been the expansion of TimelyCare, a virtual counseling service for students through the Wellness Center.

Executive director of the Wellness Center, Jen King, understands what on-campus students may go through when trying to find privacy for these virtual medical and therapy appointments. 

“It is hard when you are living with three other people. How do you find privacy?” King said.

One addition to the wellness options on campus was the creation of a virtual therapy room in the EAC. The therapy room was renovated from an individual test-taking room for students with EAC accommodations into a virtual therapy room, and is now outfitted with a comfy navy blue chair, sensory items and a gold lamp for ambient lighting. 

Sabrina Mathisen, EAC manager of student life, and Elizabeth Selinger, EAC manager of academics, explain how the room is meant to be a safe space for students to conduct virtual therapy appointments. A sound machine is located next to the door for added sound privacy. 

“[It is] definitely something I feel like is super needed,” Selinger said.

“We’ve had 4 or 5 students use it already!” Mathisen said. 

To use the therapy room, students are required to be registered with the EAC. They can do this through obtaining a signature from a licensed professional, oftentimes a therapist or psychiatrist, and meeting with Mathisen or Selinger. From then on, those students can book the room online.

Although this room is reserved for EAC registered students, Mathisen and Selinger state that any student can use the lounge space in the EAC, whether EAC registered or not. This space has a couch, blankets, sensory items, and is just down the hall from the EAC-provided Keurig and snack counter. 

Currently, there are no spaces on campus dedicated to virtual therapy for students not registered with the EAC. Mathisen and Selinger voiced their hopes for the university to implement more areas like the therapy room, but for all students.

Virtual therapy through TimelyCare has been available to students since its launch in spring 2020; however, King said the service is very underutilized. This year, her team made efforts to promote it more. 

“We had every freshman download the app, that was part of their New Student Orientation experience,” said King. 

“It was originally purchased for traditionally undergraduate students to augment medical services to students beyond the capacity of the Wellness Center,” said King. 

Students are now able to do a talk now counseling visit and be connected to a counselor within fifteen minutes. “It’s on-demand,” said King. 

Many students have taken advantage of the therapy options TimelyCare offers. “I’ve really enjoyed my experience with TimelyCare,” White said. There are options for therapists with different specializations depending on what the student needs, White explained. 

“It was also helpful that I had the option of choosing therapy that was not Christian-oriented, which is difficult to find on campus,” White said. “Through this platform, I was able to find a therapist that fit all my mental health needs.” 

TimelyCare is completely confidential and it is not connected to student or parent insurance. 

“TimelyCare helped me allow myself to admit when I was struggling and gave me a space where my feelings could be validated,” White said. “It also gave me the tools to properly handle my emotions in a healthy way.” 

One concern students may have when trying our virtual care is whether their issues will be treated, but King said practitioners on TimelyCare have the ability to prescribe, and this includes psychiatric medications. 

There is no limit to TimelyCare’s medical or counseling services, but there is a twelve visit limit for the psychiatry services. 

“One of my favorite parts about virtual therapy was being able to do it in my own room,” said Jessica White, fourth year environmental studies major. “I know many other students struggle coordinating with roommates and finding a safe place to do therapy on campus. I wish I had the option to go there [EAC therapy rooms] when I was a freshman in a dorm,” White said.

King explains that “In the past, counseling has been able to provide a space [for virtual therapy appointments], but now that we have more full-time counselors there, there just isn’t a place for students because it is all for in-person therapy that’s provided through the counseling center.” 

King said she and her team are brainstorming places like the new health promotion space, Wellspace, or the library for availability to make virtual therapy rooms available for students. 

The Wellness Center is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4p.m.

Pictured is the virtual therapy room in the EAC.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Gleason.
Pictured is the lounge area in the EAC open to all students, EAC registered or not.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Gleason.

Written By: Sarah Gleason and Becky Rookard