Therapy groups help Rutgers students cope with issues
Facing one's demons may seem impossible, but there is little reason to do it alone.
Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drugs Assistance Program (ADAP) and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers therapy groups at Rutgers to help students deal with a wide variety of issues like anxiety, stress, eating disorders, grief and loss.
“We offer 30 different therapy groups and workshops for students each semester, with timings all through the day so it is easy to fit in anyone’s schedule,” said Beverly Andres, clinical social worker and group program coordinator at CAPS.
The three largest groups run by CAPS are Anxiety-Management, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Process groups. The longest running group at Rutgers has been the grief and loss group. But the number one issue students come in with is anxiety, she said.
“We have an anxiety management workshop that consists of four one-hour sessions,” Andres said. “It helps students understand the physiology of anxiety and helps them build coping skills and work on mindfulness.”
The program tries to target the specific needs of each student, said Annmarie Wacha-Montes, assistant director for Community Based Services at CAPS.
While ADAP runs separate therapy groups for drug and alcohol recovery, CAPS offers several groups aimed at issues like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the therapy groups, called Manage your Mood, makes use of DBT.
“DBT is offered five to six times per week and helps students develop interpersonal effectiveness, tolerate stress, regulate emotions and cultivate mindfulness skills,” Andres said.
This group utilizes DBT-informed education and training, which is combined with discussion to help treat students' psychological issues. Students get the opportunity to practice skills they learn in the group and report back with results.
“College is definitely very stressful and contributes to anxiety, especially for people who see it as an opportunity to create a meaningful life for themselves,” said Virginia Quiros-Barboza, a School of Engineering sophomore.
CAPS offers a mindfulness workshop four days a week that is open to students, faculty and staff members at no cost. This workshop is held on a different campus each day. No sign-up is required, Wacha-Montes said.
Quiros-Barboza said she would love to attend one of the mindfulness workshops since they sounded helpful. If she feels she cannot deal with an issue on her own, she would seek professional help, she said.
“I think the biggest problem is knowing when you need help,” Quiros-Barboza said.
Students can also sign up for process groups that don’t have a particular theme but are meant to be a supportive space where students can come in and interact with one another and build on relationship skills.
“We add workshops towards the end of the semester that focus on developing study skills and stress tolerance,” Andres said.
There are special groups to assist seniors as they approach graduation.
All these different kinds of student therapy groups are successfully gaining popularity at Rutgers.
“Students benefit from knowing that they are not alone and are in a supportive environment,” said Andres. “They learn from one another and feel useful and helpful when they support their fellow students.”
Students in Wacha-Montes’ group have described their experience similar to taking a class.
To sign up for a therapy group, a student has to call the CAPS office and set up an appointment.
The therapy groups are helpful to several students and guided by "evidence and skills" that have proven to be effective outside Rutgers, Wacha-Montes said.
“There is a stigma surrounding therapy,” she said. “Therapy does work and it is empowering.”
Students have shown to have improved academics, relationships and increased rates of satisfaction.
Students are encouraged to get more involved and are less fearful to talk about what is going on.
“It is really helpful to look across the room and be able to say that ‘I am not alone,'” Wacha-Montes said. "(The Therapy groups) give them a boost to make changes in their lives."
Ria is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in genetics and minoring in psychology. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. You can find her on Twitter @riarungta.