Bass Connections Faculty Team Leader. Virtual Avatar Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students with Accessible Peer Support. 2018 - 2019
Primary Theme: Education & Human Development
Every year, approximately 25% of American adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness. College students are a particularly high-risk group; 75% of adult-onset mental illnesses are present by age 25. Students face a multitude of stressors during college, and these stressors can serve to exacerbate underlying predispositions to mental illness. There are significant barriers to the delivery and effectiveness of mental health services for college students. Barriers to seeking services include feelings of personal shame, feelings of ambiguity about the need for treatment and skepticism about treatment effectiveness. The traditional manner of delivery of mental health services may present another obstacle. We expect that talking to someone in an office on a weekly basis will lead to generalization of new skills. Yet, people often need coaching and support in the precise moment that something challenging is unfolding. If that were possible, the potency of therapeutic interventions could greatly improve. However, there are also significant barriers to implementation of in-the-moment services including cost, therapist availability, ethical or legal issues and potential for therapist burnout. The use of trained teams of virtual peer health coaches (“avatars”) has the potential to address these barriers.
Service Performed By
Sapiro, Guillermo James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Bass Connections Faculty Team Leader
Service or Event Name
Virtual Avatar Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students with Accessible Peer Support