CAPS offers support groups for Beavers


Sydni Zidarevich, Justice, Equity and Diversity Beat Reporter

From 1 on 1 sessions on a chaise lounge, to group puzzles, to performative groups, mental health support groups take on different shapes at Oregon State University. 

OSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services hosts therapy support groups led by mental health professionals and facilitators for OSU students. 

CAPS has a mission to “provide mental health counseling to students, and consultation, outreach and education to all OSU community members,” according to their website. Providing identity-based support groups as a resource creates a safe space to help participants feel less isolated in their experiences.

The month of May is dedicated to bringing awareness to mental health, and began in 1949, to show the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives, as well as celebrate those in recovery from mental illness.

“As part of minority stress, people are constantly monitoring the environment around them … our hope is that we’re creating these spaces, where people can see themselves in each other and know that who I am as good and valuable and strong and resilient, and full of potential and love, and sorrow and all the things all human beings have. And our minority stress is real,” said Beth Zimmermann, Bites with Beth and TransForm! group facilitator.

By developing safe spaces where individuals, particularly marginalized groups with similar backgrounds and experiences can come together, can talk and express their thoughts and feelings allows the opportunity and ability to express in an authentic way, according to Ireti DeBato-Cancel, BIPOC Therapeutic Performance and Orange Table Talk facilitator.

“People don’t realize how mental health is tied into everything…It’s often seen as, ‘Oh, you’re depressed on the individual level,’ but when a whole system is structured to denigrate you or to somehow teach you that it’s okay to denigrate others, right, that’s traumatic on both forms,” said  Michele Ribeiro, groups coordinator and Examining White Identity, as well as Critical Conversations: A learning and accountability group facilitator.

Zimmermann expressed that although these groups are a step in the right direction, they are just the foundation. Addressing intersectionality more fully is something that the community should focus on, according to Zimmermann

“When you have students of color that are on a campus that is predominantly white, sometimes, although you’re hyper visible, sometimes you feel invisible. And so having that space and the ability to put art to feelings is a powerful way to feel seen and heard at the same time,” DeBato-Cancel said.

Identity Based Support Groups offered through CAPS:

Bites with Beth, an LGBTQ+ Support Group

Bites with Beth is an LGBTQ+ support group that individuals in the queer community can stop by, bring in their lunches and have a little bit of dessert as individuals talk and express themselves together through storytelling and arts and crafts. 

The support group is currently working on a queer puzzle where people can paint puzzle pieces that will be later displayed to share their queer experience here at Oregon State.

“Bites with Beth really is meant to be for all folks in the queer community, and we invite everyone … I hope [this group] feels affirming for folks in our community, where they can find a sense of place to take a deep breath and be encouraged and honored,” Zimmermann said.

Bites with Beth is held at the Pride Center on Tuesdays from noon – 1:30 p.m. and runs from week two to week 10 in both the winter and the spring.

Orange Table Talk: Discussion Group for Black Women

Orange Table Talk is a confidential drop-in group for Black women that works to honor their stories and concerns through honest discussions and empowerment. The group was created through individual sessions mental health facilitators were having with students and recognizing commonalities within the community.

I know that there are specific experiences or specific worldviews that Black women go through, have to navigate. And it’s helpful to have space where they can share with others, be able to relate with others, and also to receive support and encouragement not only from us, but from each other,” facilitator Chanale Propst said.

Orange Table Talk is held at the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center on Wednesdays from 5 – 6 p.m. bi-weekly.

TransForm! A Gender Spectrum Support Group

TransForm! has undergone a few different names in the past, but most recently, students have requested the name “TransForm,” according to Zimmerman, and is a gender inclusive and gender expansive space. Beginning with ice breakers, name and pronouns in use, this drop-in support group affirms and confirms confidentiality with each other as they crosstalk popular topics such as resources, political climate and healthcare needs.

It’s a space where really I am hoping community is built, and friendships are developed,” Zimmermann said. “And hopefully, it’s also feeling like a safe space to explore, and to share some of the stress, because that gives us more resilience to survive a very toxic world that we all live in right now.” 

TransForm! takes place on the 5th Floor of Snell on Mondays, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and runs from week two to week 10 in both the winter and the spring.

TransSisters: A Transfemme Support Group 

TransSisters is a transfemme support group that began in winter term of this year. This drop-in support group began directly in response to requests from students at the Pride Center. It is not required to attend every meeting and is structured in a way that students can bring up different points of conversation to the group, allowing them to connect and converse on many different topics within the community and the world right now.

One of the most important things about any sort of support group is this experience of ‘I’m not alone and I’m not the only one going through this.’ So to have that experience of other people feeling the same thing, it can be supportive and healing,” TransSisters facilitator Rae Sidlauskas said.

TransSisters takes place on the 5th floor of Snell on Tuesdays, 3 – 4:30 p.m.

Women of Color Support Group 

The Women of Color drop-in support group is in collaboration with the AYA women’s group. This group works to provide a safe, confidential and supportive space for OSU students that identify as women of color to discuss a wide variety of topics and share similar experiences, according to group co-facilitator Chanale Propst.

“It’s a time to say, ‘Me too,’ to hear, “Me too’ and also to have [a moment to go] ‘I’m not the only one who may be experiencing this or going through this or navigating this.’ It’s a time to have and to develop a sense of belonging on campus,” Propst said.

Women of Color takes place in the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. bi-weekly.

Indigenous Drop-In

The Indigenous Drop-In has not yet officially started, but will be a support group for Indigenous students to have a safe and confidential space to be in community with each other in a supportive environment. The name of the group is “uniikax̂” which means “story” in Unangam Tunuu or Aleut, which is facilitator Amanda Poe’s tribal affiliation from Alaska. OSU students are not obligated to attend from week to week but are welcomed to, and the topics of each meeting will mostly vary depending on what is brought up in group.

Indigenous Drop-In is scheduled to be held at the Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws on Thursdays from 5 to 6:00 p.m.. 

“It’s spaces like this that help serve the goal of making this university a place where everyone, Indigenous students included, genuinely feels welcome and cared about,” Poe said.

BIPOC Therapeutic Performance Group

BIPOC Therapeutic Performance is a support group that launched in winter term of 2023, according to facilitator Shaznin Daruwalla. The group uses expressive arts performances to allow students of color to process any feelings or things they are going through in different art forms. The theme for last term, as well as this term, is power.

“There is loads of research related to using the expressive arts as a means of expression in processing feelings and emotions … or starting difficult conversations as it relates to mental health and how someone is processing their world around them,” DeBato-Cancel said.

BIPOC Therapeutic Performance Group is held at the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center on Tuesdays from 2–3p.m.

Critical Conversations: A Learning and Accountability Group

Critical Conversations is a reflective and learning space for white identifying students to practice having conversations that identify and examine power and deconstructing whiteness. The structure of this support group is to begin conversations that might be difficult to understand from the perspective of a white-identifying individual and uses a flipped classroom model where facilitators Allison Comiskey and Ribeiro have students sign up to watch or read material outside of the group and then have the space to talk about it, as well as encouraging students to bring examples from their own lives.

“Our work is really around being in relationship … to change the system, you have to have conversations with white people that aren’t as open [to having certain conversations], and how do we understand and work to be curious, rather than shut down,” Ribeiro said.

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