Counseling center starts support groups

by Rebecca Fiore / Beacon Staff • March 21, 2013

The Emerson Counseling Center has reinstated group therapy sessions this semester with the creation of meetings focused on overcoming grief, learning relaxation techniques, and understanding mind-body movement. 

Patricia Challan, the associate director of the Counseling Center, said Elise Harrison, the new director of the center is a fan of support groups and wanted to bring them back. 

“It was sort of a re-sparking of the idea,” Challan said. 

According to Challan, the center usually does not offer group sessions, because in previous attempts, the center found it is difficult to schedule times between enough students to form a group. 

“Students have expressed interest in groups over the years when we haven’t had them. Over the years we have heard [students say] it would be nice to have a chance to connect with peers,” she said. 

After polling students who came for individual sessions in the health center, Challahan said she found that people wanted to address the issues of stress, body image, and coping with loss in group sessions. 

Challan said the grief group will have two leaders and provide an environment for support. Leaders are members of the professional staff at the Counseling Center or a supervised doctoral-level intern, Challan said. There is a licensed staff member in each meeting.

“We believe strongly that groups can be really helpful for clients,” Challan said. “Individual therapy is definitely one way to get support but to be able to sit in a group with people who have experienced something similar to you that can share experiences; their experiences are a way to really feel that the struggle is normalized, and to really feel that people get it.”

The mind-body movement group has two components, according to Challan. 

The group met in the Fitness Center, located in the basement of the Little Building, and first had participants perform Nia, a type of dance that Challan said helps connect one’s body, emotions, mind, and spirit. After that, there was a group discussion about body image, according to Challan. 

“We aren’t trying to replace individual sessions with groups, it is more of just an alternative,” Challan said.

Harrison said the mind-body group started March 15 with a total of eight students.

“The relaxation group is a four session group that focuses on ways students can use their minds in connection with their bodies to decrease stress and promote well being,” Challan said.

The group met on March 18 at the Counseling Center. According to Harrison, seven students attended the meeting. 

To join any of the groups, students can email each contact person on the flyers which were also sent out via email. The grief group is run by both Emily Inglesi, staff psychologist and Daniel Wolfson, a psychology graduate intern; mind-body movement by Harrison; and relaxation by Challan. 

The grief group starts Friday, March 22.

Nisreen Galloway said she thinks that the support groups are a good idea for the school.

“I think it gives most Emersonians an opportunity to talk to others. For those who would normally feel alone in individual groups it would be a nice chance to connect with others,” the junior writing, literature, and publishing major said.