Process and Strategy: Students Engage in Group Support Sessions

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Nicole Siciliano, Director of Counseling, announced a new partnership between New Hampton School and Growing Roots, LLC, in September. Student Support Group sessions are offered Wednesday evenings through October 7th and are facilitated by Rachel Gulick and Chrissy Lushefski of Growing Roots. The group sessions provide a safe space for all students to process worries, frustrations, and the many emotions associated with living through this pandemic.

A space to be heard and to listen

Living with continuous change and the uncertainty we find ourselves in can be overwhelming. Worry and anxiety associated with transitioning back to school, especially during a pandemic, can feel powerful and restrictive. These group sessions focused on developing skills such as emotion regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and effective communication. While processing the many implications of this global pandemic can feel daunting, it should be noted that adolescents are among the most resilient populations and often can use adverse events as a springboard for positive change.

Ms. Siciliano shares, “This partnership enables us to expand our offerings at a time when students need it most. As students transition back to school and adjust to their new routines on campus, it is now that they should also be developing skills to carry them forward through this semester and beyond.” Likewise, she notes that students are asked to sign a privacy statement and show respect and non-judgment to their classmates. This joint trust between all participants helps to establish a safe space and meaningful dialogue.

A local resource

In building this partnership, it was essential to connect with professionals accessible to campus, both for community health purposes during this pandemic and for ongoing connection. Hosted here on campus, the students are set at ease in a large conference room that is familiar and accessible. Gulick and Lushefski share, “Student Support Group is a unique opportunity for students to escape from their fast-paced lifestyles for one hour to discuss challenges and successes with professional therapists and peers who can show them that they are not alone and help them celebrate their achievements. Students learn strategies and life skills such as how to resolve interpersonal conflict, how to be assertive when one needs to ask for something or say no, how to manage stress and anxiety, and much more. The feeling of universality from a group can have a powerful effect on well-being!”

All students are welcome. There is no charge, no advanced sign-up, and no commitment. And, while these evenings together are not intended to be a formal clinical experience, it does provide and comforting and informal opportunity for students to come together and share their experience.

About the facilitators

Rachel Gulick received her Bachelor of Social Work from Simmons College, magna cum laude, with an additional major in sociology. She went on to the University of Southern California to complete her Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in adult mental health and wellness. Prior to joining Growing Roots, Rachel worked with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault at Bridges in Southern New Hampshire, and as a Mental Health Counselor for Walden Behavioral Care’s Intensive Outpatient Eating Disorders Program for adolescents and adults.  Rachel also worked as a Mental Health Clinician in an adult substance abuse rehabilitation program in Oakland, CA. Rachel is known for her ability to connect and empathize with people of diverse backgrounds. She has specialty training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Family-Based Treatment for eating disorders.

Chrissy Lushefski is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness through the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Chrissy received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Education from Dartmouth College, and for the past five years has been teaching psychology at Holderness School, a college preparatory school in central New Hampshire. Chrissy has joined Growing Roots as part of her culminating clinical experience for her Master of Arts degree and enjoys working with adolescents and young adults. Chrissy’s clinical and research interests center on anxiety and mood disorders.

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