SRU’s Counseling Center is currently offering three support groups for students. There is one for the LGBTQIA+ community, one for student-athletes and one for students in the performing arts.
The LGBTQIA+ group meets every Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Pride Center. The student-athlete group also meets every Thursday, but in the Morrow Field House from 6 to 8 p.m. The performing arts group, officially named Positive Performing, meets every Tuesday from 7 to 8 p.m. in Smith Student Center room 324.
Each group is facilitated by a professional counselor. Assistant Professor Jennifer Culver runs the LGBTQIA+ group. John Mathe, an assistant professor of the Counseling and Development Department, leads the student-athlete group. Graduate Assistant Rachel Demaria runs Positive Performing.
“We’ve had other groups in the past that are either more psycho-educational or counseling specific,” Clinical Director of the Counseling Center and Associate Professor Kenneth Messina said. “The difference between counseling and support groups is that with the latter, counselors don’t necessarily come into meetings with an agenda…It is more about what the students are dealing with at the moment, what they’d like to talk about and what they’d like to work through as part of that group process.”
In the past, there have been counseling groups for grief and loss, anxiety, depression and stress management. Past support groups included one for sexual assault survivors, one for people in relationships and more.
“Our support groups have always had better attendance than our counseling groups,” Messina said, “so right now we’re basing it on student desire and need. If we have a few students that are interested in doing an anxiety or depression group, then we’ll start that group…we have to be very judicious with our time and resources since we are down a staff member.”
“I always tell students to contact me if they feel they need group support,” he said, “and we will do what we can to get one going for them.”
The LGBTQIA+ group is the oldest support group on campus. It has been running since 2020, switching from virtual to in-person once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The student-athlete group has been around and fully in-person since the fall of 2021.
The Positive Performance group, however, is brand new. They met for the first time on Feb. 7, 2023.
“We are primarily here to serve students that identify as part of these groups,” Messina said. “It is important that they feel they have a place to be themselves around other students like them.”
Aubrey Rader, Assistant Director for Student Organizations and Leadership and member of the President’s Commission on Wellness, said that support groups are necessary for multiple reasons.
“Finding your [group] is really important for students,” she said. “Having staff or professionals in that support group is important as well because they might be able to better connect you to resources, or they might know more of what’s on campus than other current students. Having both pieces is important and helpful.”
Rader also said she has seen the direct impact of support groups on students.
“Through my interaction with student-athletes, I heard a little bit about their group,” Rader said, “They all seemed really excited about it, and my perception is that it went over very well.”