Student Support Expanded Via Group Therapy

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Colgate’s Counseling and Psychological Services offered three weekly group therapy sessions three years ago. 

Today, university counselors manage 10 to 12 group therapy sessions a week in a proactive effort to offer support for a student population that has an increasing awareness of the importance of mental health. In the 2018–19 school year, the counseling center provided services to 706 students, a 7.4-percent increase compared to 2017–18.

“Students get a lot out of it, and the data show that it’s a really effective way to reach a lot of students in less time,” said Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Dawn LaFrance. “As a result, we’ve expanded our offerings over the past few years.”

The most popular group is currently Understanding Self and Others (USO), which aims to address the most common student concerns of stress, anxiety, depression, time management, and navigation of peer relationships. Niki Keating, associate director of counseling and psychological services and director of group therapy, said other groups include:

  • Stress and anxiety management 
  • Feel better fast: a condensed version of traditional USO
  • Grief and loss
  • Beyond the binary: exploring sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ issues
  • Survivors: A group for sexual abuse and assault survivors
  • Empower: A group designed specifically to address issues faced by students of color
  • Eating issues

“We really try to be accessible to students who otherwise might not seek counseling, and we try to be thoughtful about the themes, thinking about the different populations we can help serve,” LaFrance said. 

Keating said, oftentimes, group sessions can be more effective than standard individual therapy, as students realize they are not alone with their problems and often form strong bonds with fellow group members. Each group caps at about eight members, and Keating said that it isn’t uncommon for weekly group members to set up their own online chat groups to keep in touch with each other.

Counselors are also constantly evaluating sessions to make sure they are effective. Keating said student satisfaction surveys have shown that the new focus on group therapy is working. 

“We’ve found that it’s really effective, and some students come to our offices just to get involved in the groups. The feedback has been great,” Keating said of the students that utilize group services each semester. “A lot of students really like the consistency of having a session at the same time, in the same place every week.” 

Students interested in learning more about counseling services at Colgate are encouraged to set up an appointment online, or call 315-228-7385.