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The University Counseling Center is located in Magnolia Court in the Mods. Photo: Kayla Landrum

With the introduction of seven new groups this year, the University Counseling Center aims to guide and support students who struggle with anxiety, depression, interpersonal relationships and other concerns.

“This year we are making a concerted effort to further provide for the mental health needs of the APU student body by offering a variety of groups, and in particular, multiple Self-Growth Groups, which were not offered as frequently in years past,” said Dr. Lori Lacy, a postdoctoral counselor who is leading a Self-Growth Group this year and who has led the Peace with Body Image Groups in years past.

The groups are created to not only aid students with their personal affairs, but to also enable them to better connect and empathize with others.

“The UCC staff believes that a group therapy experience can effectively treat many of the interpersonal concerns with APU students present with, by offering them a safe environment to explore their interpersonal dynamics,” Lacy said.

The groups are free of charge, which is the same for all UCC services, including the Stress Management Workshop that begins Nov. 7, and a Pre-martial Workshop that starts Oct. 25.

These specific therapy groups begin this fall, and continue into spring. Each semester brings different groups, and the frequency with which they are offered depends on student demand, according to Lacy.

“Many students seek treatment for issues concerning anxiety, depression and interpersonal concerns, and these groups provide the opportunity for students to work through these issues in a safe and supportive environment,” Lacy said.

Led by UCC staff and often co-led by UCC Practicum students, the seven groups address issues of concern for students.

There are three Self-Growth groups, which are for students who seek to understand themselves and others better, develop greater empathy, and discover more about their personal relational patterns. These groups are offered Tuesdays 3-4:30 p.m., Wednesdays 2-3:30 p.m., and Thursdays 3-4:30 p.m.

Students who deal with challenging home situations can also find support with the Difficult Families Support Group that meets Thursdays 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Members will discuss their families, how past family experiences impact current relationships, and how to overcome the negative effects of an arduous family.

According to a study by Brown University, 74.4 percent of normal-weight women surveyed stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently,” while 46 percent of the normal-weight men surveyed responded the same way. With the Peace with Food and Body Image Group, those concerned about their food intake, body image and the relationship between both may find relief. The group is available on Tuesdays 9:30-11 a.m.

The Same-Sex Attraction Support Group is another place of support and understanding for students who question their sexual identity. The group will encourage one another as they explore how to live as Christians who experience same-sex attraction. Group members meet on Tuesdays 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

Experiencing loss and grief takes students away from their studies and daily tasks. With the Grief and Loss Support Group, members are able to explore the process of grief and cope with losses in a safe environment. This group is run in conjunction with the Campus Pastor’s Office.

“Research indicates that group counseling can be as valuable a tool as individual counseling and, for certain students, group treatment can be the ideal approach to addressing their concerns,” Lacy said.

There are also two workshops that give students the opportunity to gain the skills that will help them in the future. The Stress Management Workshop is a three-week program, starting Nov. 7, designed to calm the mind and body with stress-reduction, contemplation and relaxation techniques. In addition, the UCC is presenting a two-day Pre-Martial Workshop, starting Oct. 25.

The center exists to help students and encourage those who are open to addressing issues to attend and work on handling them effectively.