A new support group, Express Yourself, started its first of many meetings on Monday, Oct. 10 for women. The first meeting turned out to be a great success for Counseling Services with eight new members eager to express themselves. The group meets every Monday from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Center for Student Success writing room in the Baugher Student Center.
Kari Slater, one of the counselors on campus, said that they have been trying to start support groups on campus for a while, but did not know how. Then Jacqueline Nunn, a sophomore majoring in occupational therapy, came to them and told her about her ideas of starting a support group. Nunn said there was no existing group on campus, and people sometimes get a negative connotation about counseling. To fix this problem, a support group seemed like a good idea to make it easier for people to open up and deal with similar problems in a serene environment.
At the first meeting, eight girls attended, and for a small group setting, it was a great success. The two counselors in-charge of these meetings are Mackenzie Walker and Kari Slater. Nunn also helps and is a part of the group. Every week the group will participate in activities that help them cope with their feelings. These activities will usually involve art, music or writing. Slater said that this would help the girls to express themselves in new ways. The support group will also discuss different topics each week including body image, self-esteem and friendship. All of the girls were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, which keeps conversation in the group confidential, and keeps names of attendees confidential. Privacy is a key factor involved in helping students feel more open to coming to the sessions without causing consequences.
Nunn said the group dynamics were different than she had originally planned, but she is happy with how it is looking so far. She did not know if the girls would be open to talk at the first meeting, but they surprisingly were. There were a few that were nervous to open up, but they started to become more willing to talk. The counselors feel that the girls are already starting to benefit from going to these meetings.
Right now, Express Yourself is on a trial run so it is unsure how long it will last. After this semester, they will see whether or not the group will continue and if they should make some changes in future support groups. Nunn said, “I hope it does [last]. I think a lot of people could benefit from it.” Some men on campus have even expressed interest in having a male support group, according to Counseling Services. Slater said that she encourages them to contact Counseling Services for they would be more than happy to make a male support group. However, Express Yourself is already making an impact on some girls’ lives. “I’m really excited to see how it goes. We have a really diverse group of women with different interests that are enjoying the group,” Slater said. Nunn, Slater and Walker are all pleased with the turnout so far and hope that the group continues to have a successful turnout throughout the year.
There is no size limit for these groups, and if more people are interested in getting involved, they will make separate small groups. Smaller groups make it easier for everyone to open up. These groups try to have a comfortable environment so no one is afraid to share. If anyone is interested in going, they are encouraged to contact Counseling Services by either calling (717) 361–1405 or stopping by the office in the BSC. These meetings go from 6 – 7 p.m. every Monday night, and they will feature different activities each time.