Health & Wellness Center hires counselor, starts new support group

Olivia Avrick

A new support group for students, “Making Friends with Yourself: Mindful Self-Compassion,” begins on October 27. Led by the new full-time mental health counselor, Elizabeth Schneider-Bateman, it is among four support groups currently offered by the Health and Wellness Center (HWC).

The groups offered vary based on the needs of the community. In addition to “Making Friends with Yourself,” this semester’s sessions include “Because We are Not Alone,” focused on sexual assault, which started this semester on September 27; the Grief and Loss support group, beginning October 4; and “Cultivating Calm,” a group committed to learning relaxation and mindful meditation techniques which began September 2.
“Making Friends with Yourself” follows a 6-week curriculum that requires more of a committed attendance than groups like “Cultivating Calm,” in which drop-ins are permitted. The new group offers a broader appeal based in the idea of learning to love and respect yourself. The tools and concepts introduced in the group are intended to be applicable to students dealing with a number of different challenges.

The 6-week structure with required attendance is intentional; the curriculum builds on itself and allows for deeper exploration of concepts and strategies but is also a manageable time commitment for the busy lives of students.

The creation of this new support group comes out of the effort to expand the services offered at Macalester to meet the growing variety of student needs. As part of this, the HWC added a new full-time mental health counselor, Elizabeth Schneider-Bateman, who will be helping to further develop group programs as well as helping to meet the increasing demand for individual sessions.

Students are eligible for up to 10 weekly or biweekly 45-minute individual counseling sessions free-of-charge per academic year. Drop-in sessions are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The multiple on-campus support groups are an expansion of the services offered by the HWC, but are not designed to address the waitlist problem with individual sessions. This is because “support groups have inherent value as [their] own thing,” according to Ted Rueff, associate director of the HWC.

“Nationally there seems to be a movement recognizing the efficacy of support groups as means of healing, one that is not secondary to individual, one-on-one therapy, not inferior to one-on-one therapy, but equal in terms of its effectiveness,” Rueff said.

Echoing that sentiment, Schneider-Bateman acknowledged that “when you’re on a campus, especially a campus like Macalester where people are really, you know, high-functioning and conscientious…groups provide the opportunity to recognize that there are also many other people who may be having a hard time and that can be a really normal part of anyone’s human experience.”
From this standpoint, groups allow for a unique way to deal with issues by learning from others’ experiences and accumulated wisdom. Rueff added, “I believe it’s a laboratory for us to experiment with new tools and strategies in that relatively safe microcosm that is the group.”

Support groups are a way to get more students quickly into services, yet they do not work for every student. Certain topics or issues of interest to students are not always represented in the groups that are offered.

Part of Schneider-Bateman’s role will be to have conversations with students, various people in the administration and even colleges of the same size to best understand what needs are not being met and how to provide adequate services. The HWC strives to provide sufficient services that reflect the needs and issues surrounding the Macalester community.

Some groups require a pre-group meeting, so visit the Macalester HWC page to contact the group facilitator and to learn more.