Group Counseling at University Counseling Services
In group counseling, a small number of people meet together with one or two of our psychologists to help themselves and one another. Joining a group provides opportunities to learn with and from other people, to understand one's own patterns of thought and behavior and those of others, and to perceive how group members react to one another. You learn that perhaps you're not as different as you think, or that you're not alone. You'll meet and interact with people, and the whole group learns to work on shared problems. Group counseling helps people make significant changes so they feel better about the quality of their lives.
"I'm not comfortable talking in a group or sharing my problems with strangers.”
- It is common to feel uncomfortable at times when sharing, but most people find their feelings of safety and willingness to talk increases as the group progresses.
- Individuals often come to look forward to group because they feel some connection to other members and start to feel some confidence in building new skills.
- In these skills-based groups, you do not have to share a lot to gain a lot.
“How can this group help me?”
- Our skills-based groups focus on developing strategies for coping with stressors faced by students at Boston College.
- If you have been referred to a group, a UCS clinician believes that this is the best step at this time.
"All anxiety is bad, and group will eliminate all anxiety."
- Some anxiety is a natural and adaptive part of life. Avoidance in fact builds and maintains unhealthy anxiety. The goal of group is to develop skills for making anxiety more manageable.
- These skills require practice, but will help you form healthier habits for managing the distress we all experience.
- Some students may opt to schedule a consultation with the group clinician at the end of group to discuss best next steps if they feel additional help is needed.
"My problems are not as bad as others, or are worse than others' problems, so I won't fit in."
- Group may provide a place for you to experience compassion for yourself and others, without having to decide who deals with the worst problem.
- Relief can be accelerated when we truly recognize that we are not alone in our struggles.
“I am uncomfortable being in group with one of the other members.”
- The group leader can confidentially help you explore the extent of the conflict and make adjustments as needed. We will work with you to find the best fit and solution for your level of comfort and progress in treatment.
“If I decide I don’t like group, can I just stop coming?”>
- Group members are encouraged to attend all 4 sessions in the cycle as each session will provide new tools and support. However, you may decide to stop coming at any point. We encourage you to speak with the group clinician prior to leaving to explore any other possible resolutions.
"I will be forced to tell my deepest thoughts and feelings and group members will talk about me outside of group."
- There’s an expectation of confidentiality within the group. Everyone will be encouraged to participate but you decide for yourself how much personal information you would like to share. You only share as much as you feel comfortable with.
Anxiety Toolbox is for students who struggle with overwhelming anxiety. In the group students will learn about anxiety and develop skills to better manage their anxiety. To schedule a brief meeting to learn more about the group, please call 617.552.3310.
WAVES: Learn to Surf Your Emotions
WAVES group is for students who struggle to control their emotions. The group uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a well-established treatment model in which members learn specific skills for reducing their suffering and regaining control of their lives. These skills address the following:
- Mindfulness for experiencing and accepting life as it is
- Distress tolerance for surviving pain and crisis without making things worse
- Emotional regulation for reducing vulnerability, reactivity, and suffering
- Interpersonal effectiveness for getting needs met, saying no and managing conflict
The group is structured like a class or workshop. Group time will be focused on teaching and practicing skills rather than on open discussion. Members problems will be seen as opportunities for learning and practicing skills.
Please contact the group facilitator, Adi Inbar, LICSW, for more information: 617-552-3310 | firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
How to Get the Most Out of Group
Podcasts and Blogs
To Hell and Back, a podcast hosted by Charlie Swenson, MD that covers DBT skills
NEA BPD Blog, a series of posts about how DBT helps people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
DBT Self Help: A non-professional website that provides lots of useful information.
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: free guided meditations
DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach
The following videos explain some of the material covered in the DBT Skills Group. Please note that some of the videos have been created by mental health professionals (e.g., the ones featuring Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT), while others were created by people who have been in DBT programs and want to share their non-professional knowledge.
Mindfulness: States of Mind
- Wise Mind: access intuition about what is needed by balancing your emotion and reason.
Mindfulness: "What" Skills
- Observe: just notice experiences in the present moment without labeling them.
- Describe: just name the things you observe without judgment or interpretation.
- Participate: throw yourself into the present moment completely and mindfully.
Mindfulness: "How" Skills
- Non-judgment: notice and let-go of evaluations (i.e., "good," "bad," or "should").
- One-mindfulness: focus your full attention on just one thing or task in the present moment.
- Effectiveness: focus on what works or what is needed to achieve your goals.
Mindfulness: Other Approaches to Mindfulness
- Loving Kindness: increase feelings of love and compassion for yourself and others. (Another video here.)
Emotion Regulation: Understanding Emotions
- Introduction to Emotion Regulation
- Figure out Your Emotions: observe that your emotions make sense and are important.
- Mindfulness of Current Emotions
Emotion Regulation: Changing Emotions
- Check the Facts: ask if your emotions fit the facts or your interpretations. (More videso here and here)
- Opposite Action: decrease an unjustified or ineffective emotion by acting opposite to an urge.
- Problem Solving: change a justified emotion by identifying and resolving its cause.
Emotion Regulation: Reducing Vulnerability
- Accumulate Positives: guard against pain by increasing pleasant experiences.
- Build Mastery: guard against helplessness by doing things that make you feel competent.
- Cope Ahead: prepare yourself by imagining difficult moments and rehearsing effective coping.
- PLEASE: increase resiliency by taking care of your physical needs.
- Let Go of Emotional Suffering: practice mindfulness and acceptance of painful emotions.
Distress Tolerance: Crisis Survival Skills
- Introduction to Crisis Survival Skills and What is a Crisis
- STOP: avoid impulses by Stopping, Taking a step back, Observing, and Proceeding mindfully. (More videos here and here.)
- Pros and Cons: make a wise choice by listing the pros and cons of two different options.
- TIP: reduce arousal rapidly by using Temperature, Intense exercise, or Paced breathing
- Distract: reduce contact with pain by turning your attention to something else.
- Self-Soothe: get relief from pain by doing something kind or comforting for yourself.
- IMPROVE the Moment: make pain easier to tolerate by creating positive experiences.
Distress Tolerance: Reality Acceptance
- Radical Acceptance: open yourself fully to experiencing the facts of reality as they are. (More videos here and here.)
- Turn the Mind: consciously re-commit to accepting reality over-and-over again.
- Willingness: actively prepare to participate in life, letting go of willfulness.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: Clarifying Goals
- Clarify Priorities: rank-order your objective, relationship, and self-respect goals.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: Objectives Effectiveness
- DEAR MAN: prioritize getting what you want by asking for it clearly and effectively. (Another video here, and an example DEAR MAN.)
- GIVE: prioritize your relationship by being Gentle, Interested, Validating, and Easy.
- FAST: prioritize your self-respect by being Fair, un-Apologetic, Stick to values, and Truthful.
- Discussion of Boundaries
Interpersonal Effectiveness: Building Relationships
- Find Relationships: actively look for connections, make conversation, and join-in.
- End Relationships: recognize destructive relationships and end them skillfully.
Other Useful Videos
Want to improve your relationships or feel better about yourself? Interested in connecting in a deep and meaningful way with other students? Are you noticing a pattern in your relationships that you’d like to change or understand better? Do you struggle or get anxious in social situations? Would you like honest feedback about how you relate to others? This group will provide a safe, supportive space to explore your feelings, connect with others, and practice new behaviors that can ultimately lead to more fulfilling relationships.
In this group, members try to “think out loud” by expressing their thoughts and feelings about what others say or do in group. Members are also encouraged to ask other members for feedback in order to learn more about themselves and how others might perceive them. The main goal is for group members to determine possible changes that might improve their connections and interactions with others and themselves and then begin making these changes. Understanding Self and Others groups are a good match for those wanting a mixture of support and feedback regarding their goals and how they relate to others.
Please contact the group coordinator, Dr. Emily Kates, for more information: 617-552-3310 & email@example.com
Additional Resources on Group:
How to Get the Most Out of Group
This page links to pdf files. Use this link to download Adobe Reader, if needed.
HEAL is a confidential, weekly, support group for BC students who have been directly impacted by sexual assault. This group is a collaboration between University Counseling Services and The Women’s Center. HEAL aims to assist members achieve the following goals:
- Members will not feel alone in their experiences, feelings, and reactions
- Members will feel supported
- Members will gain a better understanding of the effects of sexual assault
- Members will be better able to cope with the effects of sexual assault
- Members will feel like they can support others
- Members will feel less anxious and afraid
This is a support group for survivors of sexual violence. It is a space to discuss and share with each other about the stressors experienced as a result of an assault(s). This group is not a place to talk through the actual traumatic event and does not serve as a substitute for individual therapy. It is a closed group, which means that once the group begins (usually a few weeks into the fall and spring semesters) no additional new members can join until the following semester. This is necessary in order to build trust and cohesion between group members and so that the meetings feel predictable and safe. Students who have a desire to join this group but are unable due to the group having already started should contact Eileen Suhrhoff, PsyD at University Counseling Services (eileen. firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on additional resources, workshops for survivors, and for placement on a contact list for those interested in joining the following semester.
BC students (undergraduate or graduate, of all genders) who have been directly impacted by sexual assault are welcomed to join this group. HEAL facilitators are BC staff members who are either trained clinicians, or supervised by trained clinicians, from University Counseling Services and The Women’s Center.
A screening is an essential part of forming a group. A one on one conversation with a group facilitator is needed in order to provide more detailed information about the group and to gather information to decide if the student would benefit from participation in this particular group. This is determined together based on a conversation about the student’s goals, willingness/ability to participate, and progress in their healing journey. Depending on where an individual is in the timing of their healing process, a group such as HEAL can be helpful or harmful. It is necessary for students to be at a stage in which their well-being will not be jeopardized by the group experience.
If you think this group might be a good fit for you and want to schedule a screening conversation with one of our facilitators please contact University Counseling Services at 617-552-3310 and request a 60 minute screening for HEAL.
Reasons Someone Might Be A Good Fit for HEAL
- You are looking for community
- You want to connect with other survivors
- You already have some coping skills in place but want more
- You can tolerate talking about the topics of sexual assault
- Dissociation and flashbacks are not primary presenting problems
- You want to get support and give support
- You feel alone in your healing process
Reasons Someone Might Not Be A Good Fit for HEAL
- You are wanting to process the actual traumatic event
- Sharing in this context may cause your symptoms to worsen
- Your experience with assault has been very recent and you may first need to build coping skills or connect with other resources before joining
- You are currently in crisis or suicidal
- Your are having difficulty managing symptoms such as dissociation or flashbacks which may interfere with the group process
- You are not looking for connection and community with other survivors
- University Counseling Services, Gasson 001, 617-552-3310
- SANet Hotline, 617-552-2211
- CARE Team walk in hours, Mon-Fri 3-4pm, Maloney 441
- Melinda Stoops, Title IX coordinator, Maloney 412, 617-552-3280
- The Women’s Center, Maloney 441, 617-552-3489
- BARCC, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, 617-492-8306
- BARCC Hotline, 1-800-841-8371
- The Center for Trauma and Embodiment at JRI, 781-559-4900
For questions related to HEAL please contact Eileen Suhrhoff, PsyD at eileen. email@example.com at University Counseling Services.
- Together is a student-centered grief support group; an opportunity for anyone carrying grief at BC to get to see that they’re far from alone in this experience.
- Sisters Let's Talk assists female students of color at BC to grow closer through discussing issues that are pertinent to their well-being.
- Dedicated Intellectuals of the People provides a space for AHANA males to discuss issues that affect their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth and develop skills to navigate through a predominately White institution.
- PRISM & TRANSCEND offers private, reflective, and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ students to meet and engage in meaningful discussion around identity development in support groups facilitated by graduate students.
- Axios is a welcoming and affirming space for undergraduate students of the LGBTQ+ community and those who are questioning their sexuality to discuss the impact of religion and spirituality in their lives.
- Alcohol Anonymous Meetings for students who are in recovery or exploring ways to de-emphasize the role of drugs and alcohol in their lives.
- Restore is a confidential group that consists of members of the BC community who are children or siblings of someone who is or has been incarcerated, contact Professor Celeste Wells for group information.
- Zen Meditation is a group for students, faculty, and staff to learn together about the practices of mindfulness and meditation
Koru Mindfulness Sessions
Instructor: Eileen Thompson