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Q&A: Free group therapy available for students

When you think of therapy and getting professional counseling for your mental health, many people automatically picture the one-on-one appointments with a comfy couch that we see on TV. But counseling comes in many forms.

At IUPUI CAPS, group counseling is available for free. Group sessions can help you learn coping skills, process with art therapy and more.

JagNews spoke with Brittany Snyder, a licensed mental health counselor at CAPS, to explain more about the opportunities available for group therapy.

Question: What are some of the benefits of participating in group therapy?

Answer: Group therapy is really awesome and unique in that it gives a lot of things that individual therapy does not. Individual therapy is very isolated; it does not give connection to peers or connection to others like group therapy does.

You’ve probably heard a lot of times people say they feel really alone in their struggles. Group therapy breaks that down because you’re around others who may be dealing with a similar situation or who identify similarly to you.

It also gives an opportunity for you to hear different perspectives, have accountability, get support from your peers and improve self-discovery. So, there are tons of benefits and a lot of research that backs up the healing benefits of group work.

Q: What group therapy services are being offered at CAPS this semester?

A: There are seven different groups this semester. Those groups include Mindfulness-Based Stress Management and Cultivating Mindful Self-Compassion, which builds off of the mindfulness group but incorporates more of the self kindness piece.

We also have open groups, like Community Healing Space, that are an open support group where students who just want to connect to others can come to.

Then we have our process groups. We have a few options for those because they are our most popular groups. There’s Understanding Self and Others, and this semester we also have a new group called “Here. Queer. Let’s Talk About It!” targeting support for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Another one that is really popular is our Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy Space.

The last group is one we have had for a while called Coping 101. It’s a skills-based group where we give students a plethora of coping skills to help manage whatever symptoms they might be struggling with.

Q: What can students expect when attending a session?

A: They’re all so different. More of the skills-based groups, like Coping 101, we do virtually, so you join your Zoom meeting with your peers and it is very much led by the facilitator.

That one is more you go, you learn your skills, you get what you need, versus a process group like Understanding Yourself and Others that’s really open-ended. For those process groups, you can expect to join your group meeting — whether it’s on Zoom or at our office in our group room — and the facilitators just open it up for discussion. There’s no agenda to it; it’s just really open-ended in that way.

And then we have other groups that are a mix of that. The one I like to do is Cultivating Mindful Self-Compassion. We teach a lot of skills as the facilitators, but we also invite participants to come in our group settings and do a check-in or just talk about how the skills they’re learning from the group are working for them.

The art therapy space is really hands-on. You are actually doing art. So if you’re doing that group, you go into the art therapy space in-person, and you’re creating things. Sometimes there’s some talking and sometimes there’s not, but you can expect to get your hands busy and do a lot of artsy kind of things to help you process with your peers in that group.

Each group is different, but either way, you’ll expect to be around peers, you’ll expect some talking, and you will expect some learning.

Q: Do students need to go through a registration process to participate?

A: Yes, there is a registration process, and the best way is just contacting CAPS and saying, “Hey, I’m interested in getting into this group.”

All students go through an initial consultation that might lead to a referral to a group. Some groups may require an additional screening process, but not all. A current client’s CAPS therapist can also refer them to group as well.

Once you’re then added to the roster, the therapist running the group will keep you informed about when group starts and what to expect. It’s super easy and super accessible to students.

Q: Are group therapy services free?

A: Group services are free, but not all services at CAPS are free. The way we work at CAPS is we are able to offer a free initial consultation, so that first meeting with your therapist.

During an initial consultation, that therapist comes up with an ideal plan based on your goals. They might recommend group therapy first because a lot of really great needs are met that way. They might also refer you to another resource on campus depending on your needs and your goals.

In terms of counseling services, it just depends on what your goals are and what you and your therapist decide is the best treatment plan to reach those goals.

Q: As a mental health professional, what advice do you have for students who are looking to improve their mental health?

A: Know what is on campus to help you, whether that is CAPS or Health and Wellness Promotion or other resources on campus; that’s the biggest thing.

And having the courage to reach out when you’re struggling, because that can be a barrier when we feel scared to reach out and we don’t know who’s there to help us. That can cause people to not reach out, so give your peers this information and know this information for yourself and use it when you need it.

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