Group Counseling

What is Group Counseling? – Group is a therapy format that approaches issues of personal growth through the use of interpersonal interaction – to interact with others to identify and understand our maladaptive patterns and how to change them.  Group interactions provide an opportunity to build relationships and receive interpersonal feedback about how we experience one another.  You can gain specific skills and strategies to meet personal goals, explore areas that present personal challenges, and gain support and encouragement from others.  Group is one of the most effective ways to explore and support changes you wish to make in your life.

When Do Groups Meet? – Typically, groups meet once/weekly for approximately an hour and an half in one of several group rooms located at Student Counseling Services (SCS).  Group sessions are offered year round and many groups are ongoing from one semester to the next.  This allows group members to continue beyond one semester when it is therapeutically beneficial.  Groups do not meet during university holidays or semester breaks. 

What to Expect? – If this is your first experience in a therapy group, you probably have some apprehensions – most people do.  Coming to group for the first time is often the hardest part about group.  However, after getting past the first group meeting, many students describe it as a very valuable and helpful experience.  Most groups consist of one to two therapists and six to ten group members.  Feeling safe in group is very important to a successful group experience and all group members’ confidentiality is protected.  Also, some group members will be ready to disclose their thoughts and feelings early on in group; others need more time to gain feelings of trust and security.  Group members’ pace and readiness for sharing is respected.  Regular, weekly attendance is expected of all group members. 

How to Get Started? – SCS is happy to help you determine which group would be the best fit for you.  If you are interested in joining a group, stop by our office (3rd floor, Student Services Building), fill out paperwork, and meet with a counselor to determine if group is the right fit for you.  You can also contact the SCS Group Therapy Coordinator, Dr. Nichole Olson, for more information:

Nichole Olson, Ph.D.
Group Coordinator
Student Counseling Service
2223 Student Services Bldg., 3rd Floor
Iowa State University
Ames, IA  50011-2223
Phone: 515-294-0159


Group Descriptions

Understanding Self and Others (USO) Group
Many groups offered at SCS are general process-oriented groups for students dealing with a variety of issues of personal concern (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship concerns, among other things). Members explore patterns of how they relate to themselves and others with the aim of developing greater understanding and acceptance, changing current behaviors, and developing better ways of coping.  Some of our USO groups also have themes, or special areas of attention.

Student of Color Group
This group is designed for students of color and bi/multiracial students on campus who need a safe space to talk about their intersecting identities and ways to navigate the complexities of their experiences. Members share their personal experiences, give and receive feedback to each other, and empower themselves to succeed in all aspects of their lives. They also increase their awareness of ways in which cultural and racial identities form their sense of self and their relationships.

International Student Group 
Adjusting to college in the U.S. can be an exciting yet challenging process, and many students feel alone when facing these challenges. This is a confidential, safe, and supportive “home away from home” where students share experiences and develop positive connections with others. We laugh together, comfort one another, and help each other out. Group themes tend to focus on concerns common to international students.

USO with Trauma Themes
The USO with Trauma Themes group is process group for students who have experienced interpersonal trauma or a relational pattern in which trust was broken (e.g., emotional/verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse/assault, stalking, family of origin dysfunction, bullying, harassment, intimate partner violence, traumatic grief).  The group will provide a safe and affirming space for students to focus on building a sense of self and exploring how to integrate past traumatic experiences with present day life. Students will have the opportunity to provide and receive support and work toward personal recovery goals.

Grief Group
This group is for any student who has experienced a significant loss in their life, such as the death of a family member, close friend, or significant other. This group invites students to connect and receive support from others who have experienced the pain of a loss. This group offers a chance for students to engage in the healing process, understand their unique way grieving, and find meaning moving forward in life.  This group is semi-structured, meaning that it will include open space to process a student’s grief experience while also providing structured activities to facilitate the grief experience.

Men’s Issues Group
The Men’s Issues Group at SCS is a space for students who identify as men to engage with each other around topics such as relationships and intimacy, anxiety, depression, family, communication skills, life transitions, stress, anger, addiction, and sexuality. The group explores here-and-now aspects of developing relationships with each other while examining topics through the lens of masculinities and the various ways to “be a man.”  This is a process group. There may moments of structure to facilitate process, however this will be fluid and not integrated into a curriculum.

Mindfulness USO
This group is for those who are interested in mindfulness & meditation as well as for students who struggle with stress in general. The group combines teaching mindfulness practices with interpersonal skills in an experiential way. Members explore procrastination, anxiety, racing thoughts, low self-confidence, perfectionism, relationship difficulties, etc. They learn how to be aware of their experiences while they are going through them, and how to stay focused.  

Living without Disordered Eating Skills Group
This is a skills-based therapy group for students with disordered eating and body image concerns. The major goal of the group is to learn new skills to leave behind disordered eating thoughts and behaviors and to learn to embrace self and body acceptance.  During the semester long group, members will learn new skills such as mindfulness practices, emotional awareness and regulation techniques, interpersonal strategies, practices for openness and flexibility, and overall gain the ability to cope more effectively with difficult experiences.

Mindfulness Meditation Group (Walk-In Group)
This group is designed to help students learn the practice of mindfulness meditation.  Each meditation session will begin with 15-20 minutes of guided sitting meditation, followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion, and will conclude with another 15-20 minutes of guided sitting meditation.  This is an open group and drop-ins are always welcome.  No appointments necessary.  Come just once, or as often as you like.  During the spring 2016 semester, this group will be offered Wednesdays from 12:10-12:50 at State Gym (Room 2112).