girl student smiling for camera in Health Sciences Student Center.
Megan Bigham, a clinical and counseling psychology master’s student at Augusta University, was one of twelve graduate students who hosted workshops during Spring 2019's Wellness Workshop Series. "Thanks to the Wellness Workshop Series, speaking in front of people is much easier for me now. And presentation experience is invaluable when applying to doctoral programs, which I plan to do." Bigham's presentation was on stress inoculation training. She will graduate in July 2020.

AU graduate students spearhead innovative workshop series

With the spring semester just around the corner, Augusta University’s Student Counseling and Psychological Services (SCAPS) office is already preparing for its third annual Wellness Workshop Series, an event cohosted in the spring by the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Department of Advanced Studies and Innovation.

The Wellness Workshop Series has become an annual tradition for SCAPS. Dr. Elena Petrova, director of Student Counseling and Psychological Services, explains that the workshops are a unique group effort in our campus community.

“The Wellness Workshop series was born out of a collaboration between SCAPS and other departments on campus, including academic departments,” she says. “The workshops seek to teach both undergraduate and graduate AU students specific wellness, self-care and resilience skills.”

Dr. Elena Petrova pictured in her office on the Summerville Campus
Dr. Elena Petrova in her office on the Summerville Campus

The Wellness Workshop Series is hosted from February to April each academic year, but the planning begins in the fall.

“We begin preparations early because the Wellness Workshop series is extremely collaborative,” says Lizy Humphrey, associate professional counselor and outreach coordinator at SCAPS. “And the best part is, the facilitators of the workshops are current AU graduate students. So the entire series is student-led.”

Each fall semester, SCAPS reaches out to Augusta University graduate students in counselor education and clinical psychology programs and recruits those interested in organizing a one-hour workshop on a topic of their choosing. When all applicants have submitted their areas of interest, they are then tasked with organizing the workshop alone or in groups of two or three. In past years, the workshops have been about stress management, healthy relationships, emotion regulation, body image, preventing interpersonal violence and more.

In addition to the series being a partnership between students and departments, the individual workshops are sponsored by on-campus groups, which makes the series a truly collaborative effort. Past workshop sponsors include student organizations, Housing and Residence Life and honor societies like Psi Chi and Chi Sigma Iota.

Megan Bigham, a clinical and counseling psychology graduate student at AU, says her workshop-hosting experience in spring 2019 was vital to her growth as both a student and future mental health educator. Her workshop, which she co-hosted with another student, covered stress management. It was sponsored by SCAPS and the Student Wellness Council.

Bigham emphasizes that the Wellness Workshop Series is invaluable to both attendees and presenters. “As a student, these workshops are great introductions to a variety of topics that can improve well-being,” she says. “Many students have stressors they may not feel warrant a session at the counseling center, so they can benefit from attending workshops on those stressors, or other topics they feel most drawn to.”

Bigham sees the Wellness Workshops as an opportunity to educate students who may not have experience with mental health topics.

“As a future mental health educator, it is incredibly important to normalize the struggles that so many students experience.” she says. “But if you aren’t a psychology major, you may not have been exposed to a lot of the information we present at the workshops. So they provide an avenue for psychoeducation and an opportunity to seek out further services if needed.”

Petrova sees the series as a model for how any higher education institution should approach peer-facilitated and peer-led preventative programs. And Bigham agrees: “It can be intimidating to go to a workshop led by a faculty member or a clinician from SCAPS. So attending a workshop created and led by other students might be more relatable, and make students feel safer.”

Graduate students interested in facilitating workshops or organizations interested in sponsoring a workshop in spring 2020 may email Lizy Humphrey.

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Paige Fowler
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Paige Fowler

Paige Fowler is the Communications Specialist for the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at pfowler@augusta.edu.

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Paige Fowler Written by Paige Fowler

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University and AU Health. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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