Concordia launches a new emotional health coaching service for students
Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services office launched a new emotional health coaching service for Concordia students dealing with emotional turmoil.
SOS for Your Emotional Health is a series of six weekly private group sessions taking place from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31. The series’ goal is to help students with stress management, anxiety and depression, and dealing with other difficult emotions.
“We live in a very anxious world,” counsellor Eric Widdicombe told The Concordian. Widdicombe runs the program with colleague and fellow psychologist, Jewel Perlin. “People have a hard time being able to self-soothe and self-regulate, and they’re looking for ways to do that,” Widdicombe said.
Each seminar aims to teach the group a new skill set related to dealing with mental health. In a recent session, the facilitators presented the topic of mindfulness, which is defined as a firm grounding in the present, in current feelings and sensations, rather than a preoccupation with the past or future. At the session, “the participants had to eat chocolate slowly and mindfully, to taste it as if for the first time,” said Widdicombe. This exercise emphasizes staying centered, and focused on the present. Previous seminar topics included emotional regulation and stress tolerance.
“I realized I was depressed when it occurred to me that my behaviour was changing, and that the changes had a negative impact on those around me,” one anonymous seminar participant told The Concordian. “I heard about [the group] from the counsellor I was meeting with through the counselling services.” The participant said the group’s dynamic was welcoming and encouraging. “I find we all get along very well and there’s a lot of respect for boundaries, so if someone is having a bad week or doesn’t want to engage in friendly banter, nobody pushes them … Overall, I feel better. I feel that I’m more able to take charge of situations that would previously have overwhelmed me and left me feeling hopeless,” they said.
This program is an addition to the resources already offered by Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. The triage system offers drop-in and by-appointment evaluations, that determine which students can begin regular sessions with a counsellor. Other services include support groups for shyness, mindfulness and even perfectionism.
“Across universities, there’s a trend that more and more students are presented with more difficult problems,” said Widdicombe. “So there’s a lot more students and the ones that are [distressed] have more severe mental health problems or challenges.” He cited the expanding role of technology in recent years as a major factor in emotional distress.
Widdicombe said poor sleep habits, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating are all signs of chronic emotional distress. While Widdicombe is concerned about these increased instances of emotional problems, he said he remains optimistic. “I think there’s less stigma about mental illness and seeking help for it, so people are willing to come to our service and they don’t have any bones about it.”
The group started in September, and is not currently open to new participants. However, Widdicombe said the group will likely run again, perhaps as early as this winter.
Widdicombe’s main suggestion for those struggling with difficult emotions is “to seek out help—to come to triage to see what groups we offer, and to know that there’s support out there.”
Information on all services is available on the Counselling and Psychological Services webpage, which is accessible through MyConcordia under the heading “Student Services.”
Graphic by Thom Bell