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Uwill Expands Access to Teletherapy for College Students

The platform uses artificial intelligence to match students with therapists based on their preferences and schedules, without having to travel to and from campus health centers with limited staff.

Teletherapy, psychologist online
As the digital learning market continues to experience unprecedented growth during COVID-19, ed-tech developers have created a plethora of platforms to facilitate virtual learning and enhance instruction. Despite growth in this sphere, little has been offered in the way of online mental health services catering specifically to college students, according to Michael London, CEO and founder of teletherapy provider Uwill.

In 2019, London founded Uwill to address a need for digital mental health services via the company's digital counseling platform, which connects therapists with students according to each of their schedules. He said the tool expands access to counseling services at schools with limited resources and staff for mental health support.

London believes mental health is the “defining higher education challenge of our time” – a challenge only exacerbated by the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’d say anxiety is at a high,” he said. “That’s not just because of COVID, but COVID’s certainly not helping the situation.”

According to Uwill's website, London has had years of experience working in ed tech, having founded the online proctoring platform Examity in 2013. He also founded ed-tech companies College Coach and EdAssist, which developed online student advising and tutoring services.

London said he decided to shift his focus from classroom instruction after a series of discussions over the years with higher ed officials who had "no idea what to do" about a growing demand for school-based counseling services.

“I wanted to do what I felt was the most meaningful thing within higher ed,” he said. “I had a number of relationships with schools, and presidents would tell me that mental health was one of their most pressing issues. When the pandemic hit, teletherapy took off a bit, and so some of the hard work got done for us in that everyone started to realize teletherapy could be similarly effective to what you would get face to face.”

He said Uwill uses artificial intelligence to match students with counselors based on their needs and preferences. The company employs a team of counselors hired specifically for the platform, which London said sets it apart from other teletherapy programs today that offer video, phone, chat and messaging to connect students and counselors from elsewhere.

According to a news release, Uwill is among the fastest-growing companies in Boston, placing on the 2021 BostInno 50 on Fire rankings list that recognizes companies for "transforming their respective industries."

Among recent higher ed partnerships, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education recently announced it was adopting the platform to expand counseling services at public colleges and universities across the state. The platform is also used by students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, New England Law, University of San Francisco and others, according to London.

London said the online platform is accessible to more than 700,000 students in the U.S., mostly in higher education. The company also recently reported 600 percent year-over-year client growth.

“It’s very difficult to hire enough counselors to meet the needs that students have,” he said of what’s driving that growth. “What schools want today is a core group of counselors, and to use a group like us to complement the work they’re doing.”

Anne Chapdelaine, dean of students and director of persistence at Bay Path University, said their use of the platform has provided a "right now" mental health solution, which has been particularly helpful for students still engaged in fully remote learning.

“Uwill has proven to be the perfect solution to support and augment Bay Path's counseling center and existing mental health resources. With [the help of the platform], our offerings are more inclusive than ever and increased student satisfaction is evidence of the success of this partnership,” Chapdelaine said in an email to Government Technology.

Despite schools working to meet a growing demand for online learning options with new software tools and programs, London thinks higher ed mental health resources are “lagging behind from a technical perspective.”

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan, more than eight in 10 college students have seen their mental health negatively affected over the course of the pandemic. While the shifts away from in-person learning could be partly to blame, particularly in K-12 cases, London said technology can serve as a solution for providing help to students.

“That’s something that can make a big difference for someone when they’re experiencing some level of pain,” he said.

London said he expects for growth to continue as teletherapy gains popularity as a viable alternative to in-person counseling.

“We’re bringing in a new client now about every two weeks,” he said of Uwill's growth as of this week.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.