Enriching the UCS group counseling program

As the University Counseling Service (UCS) has expanded its staff and clinical services in recent years, group counseling has emerged as one of the most noteworthy changes. From FY13 to FY18, there has been a:

  • 438% increase in student participants
  • 278% increase in the number of group sessions
  • 331% increase in the total number of hours of services that students received in a group format

Why this increase?

The arrival of Director Barry Schreier in fall 2015 brought an increased awareness and interest in group counseling. He brought a fervor and energy to the agency in spreading knowledge about both the effectiveness of group counseling and his vision for reaching more students in need of services. Through establishing an expectation for all UCS therapists to lead at least one group, group counseling became more available. [Watch Director Barry Schreier introduce group counseling here.]

General therapy groups are the best attended UCS groups offered. They provide an opportunity for students to come together and engage in meaningful dialogue. These groups are open and inclusive to any and all identities. Most frequently, students share about relationship concerns, intimacy, boundaries, anxiety and depression, self-awareness, and life stressors. Group counseling offers a platform wherein students can discover meaning and value in a shared experience.  In addition to general therapy groups, the UCS offers men’s and women’s therapy groups to provide a unique space for individuals with a shared identity to feel safe, supported, and empowered.

UCS therapists have developed and facilitated a host of innovative themed groups. The expressive arts group, one of these themed groups, demonstrated success in its first implementation this year. The group is designed for students who struggle to verbalize emotional distress with the goal of utilizing the creative process to enhance personal growth. Students who culturally express emotion creatively may benefit from this group through a healing process encompassing more than words.

UCS also offers “clinical workshops,” such as the “Anxiety Toolbox” and “Getting Unstuck,” which are three-week skills-based groups that help students better manage anxiety and depression. Emerging in response to high clinical volume and interest during peak times of the semester, these groups have demonstrated effectiveness both stand-alone and combined with other treatment options. Their brevity and specificity meet the need that some students express for targeted acquisition of coping strategies.

Results from this year’s UCS satisfaction surveys indicated that students who attended group counseling rated their experience similarly in terms of effectiveness and satisfaction compared to those students who received individual counseling. The consistent interest and positive endorsement of groups have facilitated their longevity and reinforced their value as an integral service.

In an effort to continue to expand the group program, UCS has enriched its online presence, creating a series of videos to promote and personalize group counseling. These videos feature therapists speaking directly about their experience in facilitating groups, with the hope of giving students more information about what to expect. Revitalizing the website marks a commitment to continued growth of the group program and responsivity to students’ interest in this service.

Explore the UCS website to learn more about our groups and watch our videos.