Sydney Kate Watson, asst. arts & living editor
With half of the semester complete, it is normal for students to be feeling the pressure of their classes now more than ever. The Counseling Center’s Emotional Wisdom Workshops are a resource for students who may need some help coping with their workload and other stressors at this time.
Berry’s recently appointed Director of Counseling, Becca Smith, initiated the Emotional Wisdom program at Berry. At a conference several years back, Smith discovered the idea of drop-in sessions where students can learn about specific topics. The workshops are centered around the psycho-educational part of counseling.
According to Smith, she has developed the program to include the most common and pertinent topics students want to drop-in and learn about. For example, she offers the stress management class twice per semester.
“Those topics to me were just ones that I saw students dealing with most often,” Smith said.
College students are all going through similar experiences at this stage in life, such as test anxiety, conflict resolution when dealing with roommates and lack of self-care and compassion for themselves. Statistically, Smith has found that the most significant issue that college students suffer from is anxiety and stress. As a result, she does a different presentation at every workshop, but her common theme through the program is stress management.
According to Smith, gaining emotional wisdom is a better way to take care of yourself and know who you are.
“Emotional wisdom, if you think about it, is just learning how to deal with stress, emotions, life in general just becoming smarter about who you are and what you need,” Smith said. “I touch on a little bit of stress management probably at every single one.”
Smith understands that she is new to Berry, so individuals may not feel as comfortable admitting they need additional help with coping. To combat this, the workshops are held in Commons in Memorial Library on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. According to Smith, this is a neutral space where people can spread out and have a first interaction with her that is not in a one-on-one setting such as traditional therapy.
“I also want it to be in a neutral space because it really isn’t about therapy,” Smith said. “So, people who may not feel comfortable identifying as someone who needs mental health help can come and feel like they’re not in an environment where it’s therapy.”
Smith’s typical crowd at a workshop is four to eight students, with the most on a regular day being from 10 to 12. She has had voluntary attendance at every single workshop this year, however, some coaches are requiring their teams to attend the program during their offseason. On those days, according to Smith, she might have 20 students attend.
Head Softball Coach, Emily Stanley, has encouraged her team to attend two sessions this semester and plans to have the team attend two more before the semester ends. She said that it can be easy to preach the importance of self-care, but it is different when you set it as a priority for yourself and the team.
According to Stanley, she feels this is a great opportunity for students.
“It’s something really cool that we’re offering this year that we haven’t offered in the past,” Stanley said.
Stanley has even attended the programs with her team to acknowledge the importance of emotional wisdom and mental health. According to Stanley, when Smith opens the floor to students to speak, the students are more than happy to share their emotional experiences or things they are struggling with. She wants this to be an example to students that they are not going through something alone, and they are not the only one to ever experience a certain situation.
“Almost always hands are going up and people are voluntarily sharing and talking about things,” Stanley said. “It’s important to understand that you’re not going through anything by yourself.”
According to Stanley, the workshops are also a great place for students to interact with Smith, and to have a point of contact if they need additional assistance to cope. Stanley wants her players, and other students, to know that it is alright to ask for help.
“If they’re in a situation where they need help, they have a name, they have a face and they know that it’s acceptable to ask for help,” Stanley said.
Smith also wants students to be familiar with name and face and know that it is always acceptable to ask for help. Through the workshop, Smith hopes students learn that there is a reason why they are struggling and that there is nothing wrong with them. She wants students to know that emotional wisdom is empowering, and students can feel better.
“I want them to gain some insight into themselves,” Smith said. “I want them to understand that there are reasons how stress impacts you. I want them to learn how to then cope better. I want them to feel empowered to help themselves”
According to Smith, she has had beneficial feedback so far. She will be offering sessions again next semester. Smith said that drop-in workshops are a wonderful way to reach students, and continuing the program familiarizes the Berry population with the Counseling Center. For the 2022-2023 academic year, Smith may continue with the Emotional Wisdom Workshop, or begin a different drop-in program. She emphasizes that she is always open and listens to students’ suggestions. If there is a topic students want, Smith is ready to listen.
There are three more workshops this semester, Tuesday Nov. 2, 9 and 16 in The Commons at 4 p.m.