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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

The Psychological Services Center Resumes Group Services

Posted on: Nov. 4, 2021

Psychological Services Center (PSC) is pleased to announce that we have resumed group services after a long pause with the onset of the pandemic. Our graduate students are running two evidence-based groups for children and adolescents this semester (Social Skills Group and The Body Project) that are described below.

To make a referral or request additional information about our services, please contact Heather Pierson at hmpierso@syr.edu or 315.443.3595.

As background, the Department of Psychology at Syracuse University is dedicated to providing excellent clinical training to our doctoral students in clinical and school psychology. The PSC is staffed by advanced doctoral students enrolled in these programs, both of which are accredited by the American Psychological Association. Our clinical supervisors are faculty members and practicing clinicians who are devoted to the dual task of training our student-clinicians and assuring high-quality care to the clients we serve. Visit the Psychological Services Center Faculty and Staff page for more details.

SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP

The Social Skills Group offered to local children through PSC began meeting in-person during the last week of September. The group is facilitated by Tory Ash and Samantha Maguire, who are second-year students in the school psychology Ph.D. program and are completing their externship at the PSC under the supervision of Dr. Josh Felver, core faculty in the school psychology program. This year, the group is adapted from Merrell’s Strong Kids, a manualized social and emotional learning curriculum. The group serves six children, ages 9-11 years old, with both internalizing and externalizing concerns.

Although the return to normal activities on campus has enabled the Strong Kids group to meet and form in-person connections, that is not to say it has been without challenges. More specifically, wearing masks can create barriers to effective communication and student engagement. Given the group is centered on learning about emotions, masks have made it challenging, at times, to infer how students feel and express their emotions. Therefore, Ash and Maguire have adapted activities in the curriculum to fit the constraints of current campus policies. For example, a recent activity in the manual regarding emotion identification was dependent on students showing facial expressions to their peers. To accommodate the current landscape, Ash and Maguire instead created flashcards with facial expressions on them and asked students to engage in a matching game. Further, students were encouraged to draw or write about what their bodies look and feel like when experiencing an emotion. Ash and Maguire are passionate about adapting the intervention to fit the needs of the students enrolled in the group, without sacrificing treatment fidelity.

THE BODY PROJECT

The Body Project (TBP) is a program developed by the National Eating Disorders Association that has proven effective for reducing the incidence of eating disorders in adolescents and emerging adults. The PSC is running groups for middle school and high school girls in our local community with body image dissatisfaction. Group exercises work by producing cognitive dissonance between body-negative attitudes and body-positive behaviors, with the goal of promoting body acceptance and rejection of unrealistic appearance ideals. TBP is split into four weekly, hour-long sessions, and it is currently being hosted via Zoom. Catherine Montgomery, a third-year clinical psychology doctoral student and Dr. Kapuscinski, the PSC Clinic Director, co-facilitate the weekly sessions which are provided at no cost to participants.

The program takes a manualized, evidence-based approach to addressing body dissatisfaction, and provides participants with opportunities to engage with material both in-session and between sessions. The current group includes six adolescent girls, ages 12-15 years old, with concerns ranging from body size and shape to general physical appearance. Group participants engage in discussion with peers, practice learned skills through role-play activities, and complete home exercises including both behavioral and written work. For example, participants describe the “perfect girl” to address the contradictions within the appearance ideal, learn effective ways to discourage statements that perpetuate the appearance-ideal, and engage in body-positive behaviors that were previously avoided due to body image concerns. Montgomery and Dr. Kapuscinski both hope to continue providing this program to young community members who have body image concerns, and to adapt the program for use with additional populations.