As of December, the Counseling Center has received funding from the Body Project to start a new initiative on campus. In an effort to get more students to feel comfortable about voicing their concerns related to body image, they are looking to start student led groups which will assist in this process.
Last year, Angel Duncan, Psy.D. an APU psychologist, attended a conference that made mention of the Body Project.
The Body Project is a national program that has been developed by other researchers who decided they wanted a curriculum that targeted adolescent age to young adult women in order to challenge the thin body ideal.
Excited about the project’s mission, Duncan decided to speak with the Body Project speaker afterwards, who she remained in contact with after the conference. Upon finding out that there was grant funding available, Duncan applied.
“It’s been really a step of faith the whole time because I was like ‘I don’t know if this will happen’ but we were able to win a partial funding for it,” Duncan said.
With the financial help of the Body Project, Duncan is now looking for students who are interested yet sensitive to the topic of body image. She hopes to find leaders who are passionate about people and their ability to thrive and who want to spread the word about the insignificance of their exterior and the heart of their interior.
The Counseling Center will begin its extensive training by the Body Project in March and hopes to start their student led groups in the fall. Though the center has orchestrated the plan of creating this initiative, their desire is for students to run these groups. The only role that the center will have is to act as facilitators who will provide students with resources to help in the execution of their vision.
“I think students are much more open with their peers and I think what’s unique about this too is its a different way to talk about the things that people may be thinking and feeling about their bodies,” Duncan said. “I think peers are less threatening in many ways, too.”
Duncan also made mention of her concern for freshmen who are new to campus and trying to find different ways to navigate their eating schedule. She said it’s easier for them [and other students] to compare themselves to the rest of the APU population.
“It’s hard not to compare,” Duncan said. “I think it’s just so important to be around a community that has an awareness of that and for us to be able to mirror back and say, ‘you are okay the way you are – whatever shape or size.'”
The center is looking to create groups of approximately 10-14 students who will meet in four week increments.
“Students can expect a 4 week peer led group that will focus on rejecting the thin ideal and seeking what it means to embrace and accept themselves,” Clinical Psychology graduate student, Mallorey Newland said.
After the four weeks a new group will form. Duncan said that the group will meet for about an hour to an hour and a half at their desired location.
Since the Counseling Center office closes at 5 p.m. everyday, Duncan saw the benefit in giving students flexibility to be able to meet whenever and wherever works best for them.
“The benefits of being student led are that we are creating community,” Newland said. “We are saying ‘it’s okay to struggle, and we can struggle together’.”
These leaders will also be responsible for creating different activities for their groups to actively engage in.
Junior Criminal Justice major Kenberly Ferguson thinks that this initiative is taking a step in the right direction for the Counseling Center.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea for the counseling center to go outside of the tradition of the normal one-on-one sessions and do something outside of the box that would reach out to so many people,” Ferguson said. “I think self-acceptance is extremely relevant to us as students, leaders and Christians and I would personally love to see more people love themselves at APU.”
For more information on how to get involved with the Body Project as well as the Counseling Center, contact Angel Duncan at email@example.com or by phone at the University Counseling Center at (626) 815-2109.