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Canadian healthcare first in N.L. with launch of Therapist Assistance Online

Therapist Assistant Online, an e-health technology that has been used to treat students with mental health issues at Memorial University since 2015, in now being offered throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. - www.mun.ca
Therapist Assistant Online, an e-health technology that has been used to treat students with mental health issues at Memorial University since 2015, in now being offered throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. - www.mun.ca

An innovative e-health technology to treat mental health has been successful with students at Memorial University and is now being offered across Newfoundland and Labrador, Health Minister John Haggie said.

The province is the first in Canada to launch Therapist Assistance Online (TAO).

The program allows adults seeking counselling for depression, anxiety and substance use problems to access services when they need it, where they are, including in their own homes.

“Therapist Assistance Online is a cutting edge e-health technology and is an excellent example of how we can use technology to overcome barriers to mental health treatment,” Haggie said in a news release today, Jan. 29.

TAO pairs online education materials and scheduled contact with a counsellor through a computer, tablet or smartphone.

People begin with a visit to a local community clinic where they are assessed for TAO. Clinicians can offer counselling through TAO entirely online, in combination with face-to-face and online sessions, or as part of group therapy. TAO also provides ongoing training and consultation support to clinicians.

“We began using TAO at Memorial in 2015,” Peter Cornish, an associate professor and director of the student wellness and counselling centre at Memorial University, said.

“Unlike other e-mental health tools, this tool has depth and breadth which means it is useful to a wide range of clients. More importantly, improvements in the mental health of clients using the tool is generally more effective than traditional face-to-face therapy with as little as a quarter of the counsellor time required.

“In other words, we have found that the program yields better results while costing less. By freeing up counsellor time we are able to serve many more clients.”

TAO, which has the capacity to treat up to 18,000 clients, is presently being offered at 15 clinics throughout the province.

Residents can call the Health Line at 811 for information on the service in each region.

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