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New support groups offered to students

For any Mills students struggling with anxiety or who may be on the Autism Spectrum, there are now two support group meetings that can help.

Recently in the Student News, there were announcements that Autism Spectrum and Anxiety Management support groups had been created.  These groups started in response to requests from students who wanted several options for support, according to Dr. Julia Anable, interim director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS).  The groups are open to both undergraduate and graduate students.  The Autism Spectrum group will help students who are struggling with complex social relationships, while the Anxiety Management group will help students learn to cope with anxiety-inducing situations.

“Everyday we work with students who are profoundly impacted by significant stressors,” Anable said in an email. “Anxiety now surpasses depression as the most commonly experienced mental health concern in the U.S. and is a concern for many college students.  Autism is not as common, but is still an issue for many college students, including students at Mills.”

According to Anable, support groups can be extremely helpful to individuals who are in need of treatment as they cannot be recreated in individual therapy.  Being able to hear the stories of others, sharing experiences and coping strategies, getting other perspectives from group members and having the opportunity to talk about social phobias and cues are some of the ways these groups can help people.

Anable also said that students can attend these groups as many times as they choose.  This is different from individual therapy sessions, which students only receive eight due to high demand for counseling.

Dr. Ilana Barakat who will be facilitating the Autism Spectrum group said the group will allow people to gain social skills and techniques, as well as be a safe space for people to receive support from other people who will understand.

“For individuals on the Autism Spectrum, processing social cues, interpreting people’s intentions and deciphering the best social response can feel like a complex and challenging maze,” Barakat said.

ASMC’s Access and Support Services Senator Sophia DiPaola said she believes these support groups will help students build a community with one another.  She said groups like these are a good way for students to find others who are going through the same struggles.

“Many people are comforted in knowing that they are not alone,” DiPaola said.  “It’s a space to cultivate crucial tools to help us find balance and manage the complex emotions and variables that come with everything we are going through.  It’s an opportunity to be heard and seen without judgement. It’s extremely valuable for processing.”

Anable said that CPS plans to form more groups besides the two focusing on anxiety and autism, based on more students’ requests. Some of the future groups will be for depression, trauma recovery and body image.

More information on these groups is available at Cowell through CPS.