Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass uses support and therapy groups to help ease stress

By Ardee Napolitano

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Mentoring and support groups can be a useful tool for victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, according to research by Concordia University in Canada.

At the University of Massachusetts, the Everywoman’s Center and University Health Services’ [UHS] Mental Health Services offer a number of support groups that address various issues.

UHS offers a wide array of support and therapy groups including ones for eating disorders, coping with loss, coping with parental divorce, self-esteem, relationships, bipolar disorder, ADHD, stress, anxiety and insomnia, as well as other psychological and medical disorders.

“Support groups are designed to bring together people with similar experiences,” said Becky Lockwood, associate director of the Everywoman’s Center.

Lockwood said that victims of abuse tend to feel that no one else understands or shares their trauma, and as a result, victims find it difficult to open up about their issues and experiences.

Support groups, according to Lockwood, bring victims together with other victims. The groups promote the formation of a deep connection between the participants in the support group, including the facilitators.

“Groups normalize the feeling the person is having,” Lockwood said. “It lifts all the burden.”

Furthermore, Lockwood said that sexual abuse, although viewed as serious by many people, is still commonly regarded as a minor incident by society. Blaming victims for their own assault has become a trend, she said. She also said that when society places blame upon victims, victims feel ashamed of their condition.

The support groups in the Everywoman’s Center are conducted to feel like normal conversations that give and receive feedback from its participants, she said. This format, she said, helps victims establish trust among their peers and reduces their feelings of shame.

Lockwood said that group sizes range from six to eight people and are led by one or two facilitators. Groups meet weekly throughout an entire semester. Often, groups include a mix of college students and middle-aged women from the Amherst area. Meetings are free and open to the public.

Ardee Napolitano can be reached at [email protected]

 

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