Spring counseling groups return as more students across the U.S. seek help

The Wheaton College Counseling Center (WCCC) has once again made its weekly counseling groups available to graduate and undergraduate students.

There are currently five groups for students struggling with anxiety, grief and loss, eating disorders and depression. This free service began again last week and will continue throughout the spring 2016 semester.

The WCCC offers five or six groups each semester based on identified interests by students, residence life and student care departments. In the past, these have included groups focusing on social anxiety, third-culture kids, family issues and men’s and women’s sexual issues.

Director of the WCCC Toussaint Whetstone stated that these groups are a “tremendous resource for all students who are seeking guidance on how to achieve greater fulfillment in life.” Groups are meant to provide support for students struggling with similar emotional or mental health issues while also providing coping skills in the college context.

The ACT for anxiety group is one that has been offered consistently over the past several years. ACT, or acceptance and commitment therapy, is a type of therapy that couples acceptance and mindfulness strategies with commitment and behavior change strategies to “increase psychological flexibility.”

Anxiety, along with depression, is one of the top psychological concerns for college students in the United States. Nearly 42 percent of college students experience anxiety as a top presenting concern, followed by depression at over 36 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH).

But counseling services are not only intended for students with serious mental illnesses. Many students find the transition from high school to college mentally and emotionally taxing. Counseling services, such as those offered at Wheaton, are made available to any student that feels he or she needs support.

Compared to institutional enrollment between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015, the number of students served by campus counseling centers has increased five-fold and the percent of appointments attended has increased seven-fold. Despite the increase, the CCMH does not believe this indicates a “worsening” of the mental health of students, but rather is a sign of more students using available, and often free, mental health resources.

Counselors at the WCCC vary from doctorate recipients, licensed clinicians and practicum students. Groups are led by clinical staff paired with a practicum student or two doctoral level practicum students.

Group therapy is advantageous for students because it allows peers and clinicians to act as a sounding board for members in a diverse setting. The WCCC was not able to provide numbers regarding participation in groups.

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