Creation of New LGBTQ Support Group: Is it Enough?

web_mariah_elliotI have heard most students say they just ignore half of the emails they receive. I tend to scan through, deleting things that do not apply to me, but last week the subject of an email caught my eye, “Support group for LGBTQ.” The email read, “A support group is forming that is intended for persons who identify as LGBTQ. The intention of the group is to provide a space of support and community on campus. There will be opportunities to engage in discussion, conversation, and expressive arts in regards to what it is like to be you. This group will be confidential and uphold counseling ethics in its existence, as it is led by Master of Arts in Counseling students.”

There is now a support group for LGBTQ students! It is a place where they can gather and receive counseling support, separate from Safe Space. You may think that is the purpose of the Safe Space club, but there is no professional counseling aspect to Safe Space. It is mostly about peer support, and the chance for LGBTQ students to feel free to be themselves.

So now that we have a counseling group for LGBTQ students I will ask this question: Where are the other counseling groups? I am in complete support of an LGBTQ group, but honestly there are students on campus who could use group counseling in other areas as well, such as eating disorders, mental health, and sexual violence.

I spoke with Ken L. Nafziger, Vice President of Student Life, about this last semester. He mentioned it is difficult to get counseling groups going because of the lack of counselors, and the amount of time the counselors spend in the program.

It is difficult for the counselors to provide help outside of what they already do such as counseling in the health center, internships, and classes. Support groups may also trigger students to want to sign up for one-on-one counseling, making scheduling difficult, and eventually making students who have exceeded their eight free sessions begin to pay for their sessions.

This is a reasonable explanation, and I thank Ken for taking time to explain that to me. We have Take Back the Night week coming up the first week of November.

This is a difficult time for many students, male and female, who have endured sexual violence or know someone who has. More students seek counseling around this time of the year. I personally sought help during the week back in 2011 because it was difficult for me to be reminded of things. But those thoughts do not just happen during that particular week. They go on throughout the year. And sometimes one-on-one counseling is not enough. I think the idea of being surrounded by peers who understand what I have been through is better than talking to someone who may not understand.

I think peer counseling groups are needed on campus. There are men on campus who have been sexually violated, and feel like they are alone and cannot say anything. There are women struggling to look in the mirror every morning. And there are men and women who try their best to make it through a day without letting depression get hold of them. As a school, a community, and a family I think we need to figure out a way to help each other. And this may be a start.

-Mariah Elliot, Staff Writer


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