CWC normalizes mental illness and identity struggles with three group therapy sessions

The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) will offer three group-counseling sessions this semester: Understanding Self and Others, Effectiveness for Everyday Living (EFEDL), and Voices in Process (VIP). Each group is geared towards a different facet of mental and emotional health. Among these facets are the management of mental illness, strengthening of interpersonal relationships and support for marginalized racial and ethnic identities. Associate Program Director Dr. Eric Rosmith and Visiting Counseling Specialists Keith Kokseng and Duane Khan will facilitate the three groups respectively.

These services are of no cost to students and open to those attending either New College or the University of South Florida Sarasota–Manatee (USFSM).

In order to become a group member, a student must first contact the CWC at (941)487-4254 and schedule a group screening. While the process appears intimidating, a large portion of the screening is meant to engage the student and discuss the rules and guidelines for group counseling. A CWC staff member will also talk with the student to make sure the group is appropriate for the student’s needs. “During the screening, we might discover that [the student] may be more suited to individual therapy, and so we’ll suggest that instead,” Rosmith explained. If more convenient, one may also visit in person to schedule an appointment.

Students in the group therapy sessions will never be pressured to speak. “These sessions all derive from the three basic forms of group therapy: interpersonal, skill-learning and support-based discussion,” Rosmith said.

Rosmith encourages newcomers to the CWC. “[The groups] are very important not only for someone currently in individual treatment, but for those who are not. It sounds kind of scary to do group counseling, but once the students experience it, [the fear] will ease.”

The first group, Understanding Self and Others, focuses on treating self-harm, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts through discussion. Rosmith emphasized the importance of students supporting and guiding one another out of isolation. Students will also learn coping and interpersonal skills while attending the group. “I envision us having a rotating schedule of groups,” Rosmith said. “I would like this to be an option every semester.” Interested students will meet weekly on Fridays from 10:30 a.m.-11:45a.m.

“This form of group therapy, a mixture of skill-learning and interpersonal relationship building, is very important. Very powerful,” Rosmith said.

To determine one’s values and goals, or manage and regulate one’s emotions and interpersonal relations, attend Kokseng’s Effectiveness for Everyday Living. “[EFEDL] is a chance for people to learn more about how they interact with others and how others interact with them,” Kokseng said. The session will be co-facilitated by Catherine Tallent and occurs weekly on Thursdays from 10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Over the next few weeks, the group will remain open to newcomers but will be capped at around 8-10 people.

EFEDL is mainly an interpersonal process group. “‘I’ve had the most impactful experiences with [interpersonal process] groups. It’s one of my favorite things to do in counseling,” Kokseng said.

“I believe there is not a good outlet for racial and ethnic marginalized identities on campus,” Khan said. His perspective led to the creation of Voices in Process, a non-evaluative, validating group where people aren’t obligated to be politically correct. “Social justice is alive and well on campus. What’s not talked about enough…is other parts of marginalized identities. That makes identity development very difficult.”

VIP will serve as a safe space for students who identify with a marginalized racial or ethnic identity and process the difficulties of using a voice they’re not often allowed to use. Participants will meet weekly on Thursday’s from 3:30 p.m-4:45 p.m.

VIP is a hybrid support group based on interpersonal interactions within a multicultural framework. “This new group is being tried out on different campuses across the country,” Khan said.

“Because there’s a writing component – I’m not going to make it an assignment – there’s stuff to be done outside of the group…so I’d rather not put a time limit [on joining]. I’m going to run it through to spring and close it in December.” Unfortunately, there is no flexibility in the time and date of meetings due to Khan and co-facilitator Sophia Penã’s schedule.

Understanding Self and Others, EFEDL, and VIP normalize the occurrences of mental illnesses and identity struggles within NCF’s student population. Gathering as a group, one will learn that others have similar struggles and experiences, and, according to Khan, be validated that they are not alone. “Because we have such a small school, where everyone knows one another, people are nervous about getting in a group…But it doesn’t have to be awkward. We can work through it.”                                                                                      

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