The digital platform Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) became available for UCI students to promote self-help services on Aug. 16, 2018. Founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, Dr. Sherry Benton, explained that TAO’s upbringing was centered around her own experience with students and mental health.
“I worked in college mental health for 25 years, and throughout that time there were issues like way more students needing help than we could possibly accommodate,” Benton said. “There were just problems that we didn’t really have a solution for. At one point, I got three new positions in the [college] counseling center thinking that would help our waitlist and it only bought me two more weeks with that waitlist. So I knew I had to come up with something that would increase our capacity and approach students that need[ed] help—that’s how TAO came to be.”
TAO Connect is an online resource that capitalizes off of its accessible resources for self-help. Individuals are able to receive a multitude of helpful tools that promote a healthy lifestyle. The following are some of the educational services listed on their official website: assessments, artificial intelligence interactive tools, practice tools and logs, HIPAA compliant video conferencing and mindfulness library.
Dr. Benton described how TAO is “customizable” and molds to become a self-help tool any individual needs.
“TAO is really customizable,” Benton said. “You can use individual sections if you have a really confined problem and people can kind of create their own course in TAO. It gets used as self-help on a lot of campuses.”
Meladee L. Garst, Director of Student Educational Programming and Outreach as well as overseer of the TAO program at UCI, explained that TAO has been a resource for UCI students for a year—any student with a UCI Gmail has access to the self-help program.
“TAO has several different ways it can be utilized. So, the primary way we’re promoting it on campus is the self-help. Anybody with a UCI email address can go to thepath.taoconnect.org and sign up for a self-help profile; TAO can be used at all levels across campus to help create content that can be utilized with campus partners to reach some of their programming needs such as educational programming or sanctions requirements,” Garst said.
Since its launch at UCI, over 1,250 TAO users have signed up. This program is just one of the many self-help resources available for students.