On the top floor of the student center at Utah State University, two doctoral students are spending the summer interning. This gives them an opportunity to work at CAPS, the schools counseling and psychological service center.
"The skills training group is one of the many groups that we offer at CAPS," said LuAnn Helms, a psychologist and the center's assistant director. "It incorporates several different modules, so several different groups or clusters of skills."
Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills are taught in a group setting to help students learn and practice skills that assist them in their daily routine.
“Mindfulness is our ability to put our attention where we want to put it," Helms said. "Stress tolerance is our ability to sit with really intense situations and not make the situations worse. Emotional regulation is being able to slow down, understand your emotions, understand what they’re trying to tell you. And interpersonal effectiveness, that’s in some ways advanced assertiveness skills.”
Without a firm emotional management foundation, Helms says students who are transitioning from home to college can be vulnerable.
“These skills have been shown to help with decreasing suicidal ideation," Helms said, "Because sometimes when we’re under a lot of emotional distress, we might have thoughts about harming ourselves. So, distress tolerance and emotional regulation is really helpful with that.”
This type of group therapy is being done nationally and seems to be one way for counseling centers to help students who are already undergoing personal therapy but could also benefit from sharing experiences and learning from their peers.
“There’s a lot of research showing that it does help," Helms said. "I think it can be beneficial with a lot of different things though like, even, how do you set boundaries with your roommate. You don’t have to be real severe in what’s going on to benefit from the skills.”