UVU addresses mental health issues with group therapy

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Student Health Services is continuously pursuing ways to assess and treat mental health issues on campus — one being affordable and accessible group therapy.

Located on  the second floor of the Sorensen Center, Mental Health Services offers free group therapy sessions as a resource for students on campus struggling with issues ranging from depression to divorce. With almost daily sessions, the department hopes to use group therapy as a way of approaching the growing mental health concern.

“I definitely think that it’s still an issue to this day,” said Molly Johnson, a Senior Public Relations Major. “I actually knew somebody who lived close to me, he struggled with a lot of these mental problems for years, and he actually committed suicide last Monday.”

Since the program’s foundation in 2011, over 2,900 group therapy sessions have been held on campus, administered by licensed psychologists, clinical social workers and mental help therapists. According to the Student Health Services website, there are currently more than a dozen available staff members assisting with the programs.

“Our goal in implementing group therapy is to meet the psychological needs of students effectively and efficiently,” said Laura Heaphy, a licensed psychologist involved with the program. “Many people are unaware that group therapy is as effective (and in some cases more effective) than individual therapy for most concerns.”

The types of group therapy available include general process groups, women’s groups and stress management workshops. All sessions are free to students.

These meetings are intended to address a wide variety of issues, with agendas that are largely student-led.

Even with the proactivity of the department, there is still work to be done. According to a 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement, 36 percent of students found Mental Health Services on campus important.

However, according to the Spring 2017 Omnibus Survey, 90 percent of students at UVU found access to mental health services important.

“Seeking help should never be a bad thing no matter the situation, whether it’s with drugs or mental health or anything,” said Lauren Spainhower, a junior speech communication major. “I think seeking help is a good thing, but because it is a tender topic I think confidentiality is really important.”

To combat this, Mental Health Services ensures confidentiality in all sessions, to create safe environments where members can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.

In addition to confidentiality, other details are posted on the department’s website to give anyone who is interested an idea of what to expect. Some of these include guidelines and ground rules, FAQs and a detailed weekly meeting schedule.

With the many options available to provide information on group therapy, administrators emphasize that educating people on mental health resources is the true way to make a change.

“Education and conversation are big methods for combating stigma,” said Heaphy. “Talking about mental health more openly can help others to see that seeking help through therapy is not a sign of weakness.”

Group therapy sessions are usually about 50 minutes long, but progressing at a comfortable pace for group members is suggested by administrators.

While all are welcome, certain individuals may not be appropriate for group therapy. A higher level of care is needed for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. Anyone who is experiencing such thoughts is urged to either visit Student Health Services to be evaluated or call the national suicide hotline at 1(800)-273-TALK.

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