Stronger Together program provides support to students
The counseling center's Stronger Together program is a weekly group that supports students whose loved one’s struggle with addiction. The group meets every Friday at 3:30 p.m. in Mott House. Stronger Together is confidential but open to any student who needs support.
Director of the Counseling Center and Clinical Counselor Sharon Harrington-Hope is a co-facilitator of the group, along with Clinical Mental Health Counseling Interns Brendan Attridge and Laura Bustos Ortiz.
Harrington-Hope says the group is helpful for students to connect with others that are dealing with similar challenges. “It is extremely helpful for students to learn they are not alone in facing challenging dynamics in their families due to addiction,” said Harrington-Hope. “Students are gaining insights about themselves…and are learning new ways to cope with the struggles that come along with loving a person with an addiction.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 21 million people in the United States struggle with addiction.
Attridge says Addiction affects those struggling with substance abuse as well as their family, friends, and loved ones. “Addiction is a disease of disconnection, both for the person battling it and those close to that person. In the battle against personal addiction, the life of the addicted person becomes one of strategy and sacrifice—unfortunately, so do the lives of the people close to that person,” said Attridge.
Harrington-Hope says helping students find ways to cope with their loved ones suffering from addiction can be psychologically freeing. “There is often a sense of shame or embarrassment around the behaviors of a loved one with addiction, so people tend to find ways of coping and avoid talking directly about what is happening at home,” said Harrington-Hope. “Gaining clarity that addiction and all the secrecy and dysfunctional behavior that usually accompanies it, is not the fault or responsibility of the student can be psychologically clarifying and freeing.”
The group is diverse in its situations and perspectives, which has led the program to be successful. Attridge says, “Many of us carry around an invisible burden, one that isn’t easily seen from the outside world. It can be really restorative to learn that the person you only occasionally see walking to the dining hall has been carrying around the same invisible burden.”
Harrington-Hope says the goal of Stronger Together is to give students the tools and support they need to help themselves. “Through gaining peer support and validation, students are better equipped to recognize the impact of addiction on their lived experiences and to find ways to lessen the burden they carry as a result.”
Students interested in joining Stronger Together can go to Mott House on Fridays at 3:30. Harrington-Hope would meet with any new students to review confidentiality limitations and expectations and to ensure the group is a good match for them. Students with questions about the group or the Counseling Centers services in general can email firstname.lastname@example.org.