Yale News

Yale College Community Care launched three support groups this week, an expansion that some campus mental health advocates hope will assuage demand for therapy from Yale Mental Health and Counseling. 

The three groups — Womxn of Color Collective, All the Firsts and Creative Corner — will be led by college care clinicians Andrea DePetris and Nicole Taylor. Womxn of Color Collective is open to anyone who identifies as a woman of color, while All the Firsts is geared towards first-generation, low-income students and Creative Corner focuses on wellness through artistic expression. 

“Support groups offer an experience of camaraderie around shared concerns, as well as the opportunity to learn from different perspectives and to interact in ways that go beyond the surface,” DePetris and Taylor wrote in a joint statement to the News. “A common theme that we hear among students is the desire for meaningful peer connection.”

YC3 was introduced in April 2021 as a short-term alternative to the mental health care provided by Yale Mental Health and Counseling. The program, which includes four licensed clinicians and four wellness experts, offers students the opportunity to talk to mental health professionals about the issues that are immediately affecting them. 

DePetris and Taylor clarified that these are the first of many specialized support groups that YC3 hopes to offer, adding that they were currently in the process of determining which groups would attract the most interest from students. 

Although these three groups are currently slated to run until the end of the fall semester, DePetris and Taylor will decide whether to offer them in the future based on participant feedback. 

“It is important that students have multiple options for how to seek treatment,” said Paul Hoffman, director of Yale Mental Health and Counseling. “Many students want a more formal course of treatment with regularly scheduled meetings with a clinician, but many students want a less formal setting where they can seek support and therapy very quickly but many only need or want to come in a few times.”

Hoffman said that it “did not make sense” to “funnel” every student into one general system, especially because their needs are diverse.

According to DePetris and Taylor, the groups will provide a “tailored, semi-structured approach” to discussing some of the topics that often arise in their one-on-one conversations with students. 

“Group therapy always has this benefit of knowing that you’re not the only one, and that other people are experiencing something similar to you, which makes you feel less alone,” said Gabriella Gutierrez ’23, a member of the Yale Student Mental Health Association. “You don’t necessarily have to reveal all the personal details, but knowing that you’re not the only one going through this, and if other people can do it, you can also do it, is a supportive mentality. It feels like you’re on a team, and you feel like you’re all going through this together.” 

Gutierrez suggested that group therapy, and the support of other people going through a similar experience, could make mental health treatment feel accessible. 

Catering the support groups to specific identity groups and student interests could contribute to the sense of solidarity provided by group therapy, Gutierrez said. 

“By separating it into groups, you give, for instance, minorities a chance to talk to other minorities about their problems,” Gutierrez said. “Maybe a larger group of people wouldn’t understand those problems because they have never experienced them. As a woman of color, I have experienced a lot of discrimination, and I know that some of my friends who aren’t women of color have not experienced that discrimination, so it’s very hard for them to relate to me.” 

By encouraging conversation among students with shared backgrounds, Gutierrez explained, these support groups could help facilitate a “safe space” to talk about certain experiences. 

Willow Sylvester ’22, an organizer with the mental health advocacy groups Mental Health Justice at Yale and Elis for Rachael, emphasized that support groups such as these should not be seen as a replacement for individual counseling. 

“One grievance we see quite commonly is students being referred to group therapy settings when what they wanted was a one-on-one therapist,” Sylvester said. “It felt like it was kind of a way to move around resources so that they had enough room for the students.” 

Both Sylvester and Gutierrez, however, emphasized the importance of the brief wait times afforded by a shorter-term program like YC3. 

“Students who may be struggling may want this help right now,” Gutierrez said. “Maybe they wanted to talk to an individual counselor, but the only option is group therapy, so they go to group therapy, and they voice their concerns and have other people validate what they’re saying. It’s better than them just being in their room, not going to therapy at all.”

Womxn of Color Collective and All the Firsts will be held in William L. Harkness Hall room 105, with Womxn of Color Collective meeting on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and All the Firsts on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Creative Corner will be meeting on Zoom from 3 to 4 p.m. on Mondays. 

Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.