Students react to virtual mental health service TimelyCare


Daily file illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Students can turn to TimelyCare for free, 24/7 virtual mental health support.

Evelyn Driscoll, Reporter

Communication sophomore Jillian Olson had “known for a bit” that she needed a therapist. But it wasn’t until after TimelyCare’s launch at Northwestern that she sought the help she needed.

Olson began using TimelyCare, a virtual platform for 24/7 mental health support, in August. She has continued to use its therapy services ever since and has recommended the resource to friends.

TimelyCare offers free access to various mental health services, including 12 scheduled counseling appointments a year, health coaching, guided meditations, yoga and TalkNow, an on-demand call service connecting users with a mental health professional.

Since NU partnered with TimelyCare in April, more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students have scheduled appointments on the platform, according to Mona Dugo, assistant vice president for wellness.

“(TimelyCare) is meant to be supplemental to (Counseling and Psychological Services) and is more aimed at students who want longer-term individualized support or who want other forms of support, like some wellness coaching or somebody to talk to now,” Dugo said.

Although Olson said though it can be harder to connect with someone on a computer screen, she is sticking with virtual services through TimelyCare because of the ease of completing therapy from her bed.

Olson added that she appreciates the platform’s quick and easy online scheduling process.

“It’s a good jumping-off point if you have any immediate concerns you want to get addressed, or you just want a short-term therapist (while) you’re looking for an in-person (therapist),” Olson said.

Medill sophomore Isabela Lisco said she chose TimelyCare as her first-ever therapy platform instead of CAPS because she could easily get an appointment. Students have historically voiced complaints about long wait times for CAPS services.

At the recommendation of her parents, Lisco turned to TimelyCare after experiencing a traumatic head injury one week before school started. Though she enjoyed her time with her counselor, Lisco said she decided not to move forward with therapy.

“It’s tricky because I don’t have anything to compare (the therapist’s) tactics to, but I felt very comfortable with him,” Lisco said. 

Dugo said TimelyCare should help alleviate common barriers to mental health resources such as finances and scheduling. The University also appreciated that TimelyCare allows students to choose counselors with whom they share certain identities, she said. 

As of Oct. 10, Dugo said that of the 1,103 students who have created TimelyCare accounts, 158 students have used the TalkNow function. These numbers, although lower than she said she would have liked, are not her primary concern.

“It’s not so much about the numbers for TimelyCare for me, as much as it is, ‘Do students feel like they have access to the support they need?’” Dugo said.

Dugo said efforts to promote TimelyCare have included tabling at Norris University Center, along with advertising on social media and televisions in Searle Hall. 

However, some students believe the service needs more visibility. Olson said TimelyCare isn’t advertised enough, and McCormick senior Sahibzada Mayed said they don’t know anyone who has used the platform.

Mayed is a co-leader of Reform CAPS, a student activist group advocating for CAPS to better serve students. They said Reform CAPS sees TimelyCare as a “Band-Aid” solution to mental health on campus by not addressing the long wait times and lack of counselors at CAPS.

“If someone uses TimelyCare and they like it and they’ve got the help that they need, I would be extremely happy,” Mayed said. “But from a perspective as a group on campus, we think TimelyCare is just inadequate (and) insufficient.”

Mayed said they also had concerns about the app’s confidentiality. When signing up for TimelyCare and agreeing to its terms of service, students consent to their records being shared with licensed University medical providers and counselors.

Dugo said NU has yet to conduct an assessment of student experiences with the platform, but that administrators have spoken with TimelyCare about implementing an avenue for feedback.

“I do want students to know (TimelyCare) is there,” Dugo said. “If you’re sitting alone in your room and you’re freaking out about something and you need a confidential person to talk to … I want students to know that they have access to that kind of support.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @evdriscoll7

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