UT-Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center expands aid to out-of-state students through new partnership

Tori Duff

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has rolled out new services to out-of-state and out-of-country students to improve accessibility to mental health resources for students not on campus in the future. 

The center recently received the licensing to connect students calling from outside of Texas to counselors in their area through their partnership with the My Student Support Program.

Marla Craig, the senior associate director for clinical services at CMHC, said CMHC counselors are unable to advise students outside of state lines and, prior to the new licensing, provided students with outside resources but were unable to provide them counseling. She said this has been an issue since many students are at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are unable to access the help they need through the University.

“(The program) is able to provide services across state lines, and they have counselors across the country and in many languages,” Craig said. “Mental health is an ongoing issue right now for many of us, whether you are experiencing it for the first time or are already struggling. So we wanted to continue to expand our services, no matter where students are right now.” 

Students with mental health emergencies can still call CMHC for immediate help no matter where they are. 

“If the student is in a high level of distress, we're going to serve them immediately with our CMHC counselors and then do a transfer to a counselor in a different state for more ongoing counseling,” Craig said.

Out-of-state students will be directed to a counselor in their state through the program. Craig said this will be useful in the future when in-person sessions are available as the student can see that same counselor in their home state.

Mapalo Chikolwa, a human development and family sciences sophomore, said she has used CMHC services in the past, but they have not always been accessible for her while she lives in Colorado. 

“If you have a health issue or mental health issue, those things are year-round,” Chikolwa said. “It's not just when school is in session.”

Nimisha Jain, psychology junior and president of the Student Mental Health Alliance at UT, said the program will help alleviate student stress from being home for the holidays.

“With this program, I think a student’s chances of being able to talk to someone has gone up so much,” Jain said. “It's not a fix-all, end-all, but at least people can get the help and guidance that they need, especially people who may not be able to afford these services outside of school.”