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A review of new counseling groups at UAS

By JORDAN LEWIS

Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

 Several new groups to help UAS students cope with the stress of problems got underway this semester, each with a specific focus. 

This is a trial semester for Healthy Connections Group for Women, the Open Art Studio, and Resiliency and UAS Collegiate Recovery groups.

 “This spring semester we thought we’d try it out. Over the past five or six years, we’ve tried different groups at different times,” said UAS Coordinator of Counseling Margie Thomson. 

“We’re just always thinking of different ways to help support students.”

Healthy Connections Group for Women meets on Monday nights to help students learn what healthy relationships look like. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to know what are healthy relationships, communication, what are boundaries with the relationship,” Thomson said.  

While the group is oriented toward women, there is the possibility a group could be organized for male students.

“The Counseling Office is partnering with the AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) organization to hopefully offer a relationship focused group for men if there is enough interest,” Thomson said. 

UAS Financial Aid Technician Carrie Kline is a volunteer art therapist for the counseling office. The Open Art Studio, another new group, provides a place for students to gather and connect over making art. 

“This is more of a flexible group. I’ll present a topic, so for instance, it might be to draw a feeling or it might be that I present a specific art technique. For instance, watercolor painting, or the person can choose whatever they want,” Kline said. “It’s an open art studio so I want to make sure there are options.” The group is also working on an art project that will hang between the Disability Services and Counseling offices. 

The Resiliency Group and UAS Collegiate Recovery Group have the goal of providing peer support to students. 

In the 10-week Resiliency Group, students will share their experiences with their peers and develop coping skills. This includes “creative arts, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and more,” according to the description. 

“The Resiliency Group is more focused on providing a space to talk about mental health concerns,” Kline said, “and support each other.”

The UAS Collegiate Recovery Group supports students in recovery from substance use disorders. The group is led by Naomi Figley, a clinician at Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc. 

The program is modeled after such programs as Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Figley provided a 2016 study to the Whalesong that indicated success for these types of programs on college campuses. Titled “In college and in recovery: Reasons for joining a Collegiate Recovery Program,” the research said top reasons for joining a CRP were “the need for same-age peer recovery support, and wanting to ‘do college sober,’ recognizing that college life challenges sobriety.” 

 The study can be found at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852860/ .

UAS Counseling Coordinator Thomson helps support the program and students who are working on being sober or in recovery.

Additional Information on each group can be found around campus or by emailing Margie Thomson, mwthomson@alaska.edu,  or Carrie Kline, ckline7@alaska.edu . Students can find additional information on art therapy at the American Art Therapy Association, https://arttherapy.org/

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