Therapy may have become more of a treasure in 2020 than it ever was. Business Insider reports that during the COVID-19 pandemic, 30% of Americans have spoken to a therapist or counselor. But many still struggle to overcome issues of access to therapy. A support group on campus is offering students a solution.
Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC), a division of Student Affairs, offers a free drop-in virtual support group for students who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Groups are run by senior counselor and LGBTQ+ liaison Lauren Spencer, LCSW. She mentioned that the LGBTQ+ community is a demographic of people who tend to have higher rates of depression and suicide.
The Trevor Project conducts a yearly study on LGBTQ+ youth. The 2020 study found that 40% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide (the rate is over 50% for transgender and nonbinary people) and 48% engaged in self-harming behaviors.
Joel Oppenheimer created the space before Spencer began working at the PCC in 2018. Though she doesn’t know why he originally chose the name “All of Me,” she says she has found so much meaning in it herself.
“While there’s so much to be gained from learning from other people who share some aspect of identity with us, in this case like gender and sexuality, I really want to emphasize that it’s not a group where members are reduced to that aspect of themselves,” said Spencer.
She highlights that other aspects peoples’ identities and other experiences they are going through are also important and often at play as well. Every aspect of their existence is welcome in the space, even though their identity within the LGBTQ+ community serves as the connecting thread.
One heartbreaking statistic that the Trevor Project published is that 46% of LGBTQ+ youth reported wanting to get psychological or emotional counseling in the past year but being unable to receive it.
Thanks to the “All of Me” program, hopefully a LGBTQ+ student at SUNY New Paltz will never have to say the same.
Spencer hopes the group will offer students a space to meet others who are going through similar things or people who will just listen and offer their support. “Peer support can be so crucial,” she says. “There’s really a lot to gain through individual therapy with a counselor but the goal of the group is to find validation and to create community, to build relationships and to build relationship skills.”
If you’re interested in joining a session, reach out to Lauren Spencer, LCSW at SpencerL@newpaltz.edu. The group will run from 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays throughout the spring semester, with the exception of March 24. More information can be found online or by following the psychological counseling center’s Instagram page, @NewPaltzPCC.