C/O Youssef Naddam, Unsplash

New psychoeducational groups at the Student Wellness Centre starting this month

Psychoeducational groups are designed to focus on teaching a specific topic with an emphasis on developing healthy coping mechanisms. 

This month, McMaster University’s Student Wellness Centre is launching multiple psychoeducational groups. This includes the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, the Love Better group and the Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety group.

Psychoeducational groups at McMaster have been done in the past by counselors, health promoters or SWC staff. Simone Gomes, a counselor at SWC and facilitator of the Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness group, explained that these groups are developed by these professionals based on their area of expertise and interest. 

Starting Jan. 12, Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness is a consecutive five-week psychoeducational group that dives into what self-compassion and mindfulness mean and how students can develop these things in their lives. 

It will take place online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Gomes explained that each of the five weeks highlights a different area within this topic. This includes introducing self-compassion and mindfulness, identifying self-criticism, practicing mindfulness and techniques to integrate that into one’s life. 

Each session will aim to be informative by having students read articles or a particular website for discussion prior to entering the session. Gomes stated that this particular group tends to run once per semester (including spring and summer) and if curious, folks can contact her at gomessf@mcmaster.ca

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience,” said Gomes. 

“With self-compassion, what’s really great is that it helps to acknowledge our experience and to name it — that we are struggling or we’re experiencing difficulty in our lives. But then it also helps us to think about common humanity too and to look at other people struggling as well [and think] maybe I am not alone in this experience.”

Simone Gomes, counselor at The SWC and facilitator of Fostering Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Also starting Jan. 12, Love Better is another consecutive five-week psychoeducational group. This group will run online on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Liz Nabi, a counselor at the SWC and facilitator for this group, explained that this group aims to educate students about healthy relationships and help them build skills that are crucial in developing these relationships. 

Over the weeks, the group will touch base on qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the effect of past relationships on current relationships, tools to build long-lasting relationships and how to deal with conflict and/or breakups. 

Nabi emphasized that love is not just a feeling but a skill that one can get better at with practice and that sentiment was actually the inspiration behind the group’s name. 

“I decided to run a relationship group because this is really a phase of life where dating/intimate relationships start to become a main focus for students. Students often describe wanting to have really positive, healthy relationships yet at times struggle to develop the types of relationships they want. We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being,” said Nabi.

“We know that the health of our relationships has a big impact on our overall mental health and well-being.”

Liz Nabi, counselor at the SWC and facilitator of Love Better

Nabi shared that Love Better may also be running a second time in March. If students are unable to join the group in January, they can keep an eye out for the second recruitment. 

Those who are interested or have questions can contact Nabi at nabie@mcmaster.ca

Starting on Jan. 19, Understanding & Managing Social Anxiety is a four week group that uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and narrative skills therapy to explore social anxiety and strategies to cope. 

This program will run Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Within the four weeks, four different topics will be covered. This includes defining social anxiety, models of social anxiety, self-reflection about one’s own boundaries and understanding the implications shame has on one’s self. These concepts will be tied together at the end with an activity called Life Map where students will highlight significant people or events that shape their social anxiety. 

If interested, students can contact Morgan Lucas, a facilitator for this group, at lucasm10@mcmaster.ca

The variety of psychoeducational groups provided by the SWC gives students the opportunity to target specific topics they would like to work on. Aside from the groups mentioned in this article, other groups such as Embracing Gender Diversity and Mindfulness approach to Food and Eating are also available starting in January. For a full list of programs offered by the SWC, students can visit https://wellness.mcmaster.ca/programs/

Image courtesy of Youssef Naddam

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