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New Support Group for LGBTQ+ Students

Pepperdine’s Counseling Center is offering a new support group called “JUST BE” for LGBTQ+ students.

New Support Group for LGBTQ+ Students

By Crystal Chainani

Pepperdine’s Counseling Center has added a new support group this semester, “JUST BE”, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), and other sexual identities (LGBTQ+) students.

The support group was created to be a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to help manage their emotional health along with the demands of social life, school, and work. It is being held on Zoom every Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m.

“The LGBTQ+ community is a marginalized group on this campus,” said Jeff Williams, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Pepperdine’s Counseling Center and a co-facilitator for the “JUST BE” Support Group. “I spent a lot of time with students who identify with that community and who struggle because of some things that are going on at Pepperdine. I just wanted to hold a space to kind of support those students.”

Though Pepperdine has been listed as one of America’s least LGBTQ+-friendly schools in the past, the Counseling Center staff said they have made it a priority to support LGBTQ+ students.

“It’s interesting with the Counseling Center,” Williams said. “We exist in a very unique place where we don’t get a lot of opposition. It’s almost like separation between church and state kind of thing. If there is a student need we can respond to that need fairly easily.”

The “JUST BE” Support Group exists to support LGBTQ+ students who have felt unsupported in the past.

“Pepperdine can be a very white space, a very Christian space, and sometimes a very cisgender and heterosexual type of space,” Williams said. “For many people, they feel like they don’t fit into things on campus and that they want a space where they can see a shared affinity. They want to be in a group with others that see the world the same way and experience the world the same way. So that’s why we created this group.”

“If there is a group of students who are feeling like they aren’t supported, and there’s something that we can do about it, I think it would be neglect not to respond,” Williams said. “We need to respond, and support, and help, because there are really very few things more important than to be acknowledged and seen.”

What “JUST BE” Offers

“JUST BE” student support group provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to connect, share their experiences, and build a sense of belonging.

“This group will learn how to be more solution-focused ad also have a place where they can just be, literally,” said Chiconia Anderson, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Pepperdine’s Counseling Center and a co-facilitator for the “JUST BE” Support Group. “We are trying to create a place where people belong and not just try to fit into what the world wants us to be.”

Though there is a student-run LGBTQ+ club called Crossroads Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), “JUST BE” offers mental health resources for students.

“A lot of times people will join groups because they are connected in some way or another but other groups cannot provide the mental health aspect because they are not licensed to,” Anderson said. “So that is the difference between us and other groups on campus.”

Though the Counseling Center offers individual therapy for any student, “JUST BE” is a way for LGBTQ+ students to learn and practice various strategies, build interpersonal skills, and reinforce and develop social support networks.

“Individual therapy is based on how you are feeling and things that you need to process, whereas group therapy is where we are here in the same aspect as counselors; however, we learn from our peers,” Anderson said. That is the extra thing of what group therapy is, you learn from other people, and their experiences and hopefully create a community.”

“When it comes to group work, the answers are usually in the room, but not always with the facilitated,” Williams said. “Sometimes those answers come from others who have had experiences as well and that’s why I think the power of the group experience even in a support group fashion is important.”

Since the start of the group session that began earlier this month, many LGBTQ+ students expressed the significance of how much the startup of this group means to them.

“I think it’s great,” said Hope Lockwood, a senior English major and Life and Arts assistant for PGM who identifies as bisexual. “Even if nobody takes advantage of it in a group setting, it gives us a chance to know that like the counseling center does have and will support us.”

“There hasn’t always been very much university-sponsored support for queer students,” Lockwood said. “I’m really happy to see that Pepperdine and groups on Pepperdine are really taking that initiative to try and make sure that queer students feel like they're safe spaces for them on campus.”

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