Illustration by Jela Latham.
Ohio University’s Counseling and Psychological Services launched a new weekly jogging group counseling option earlier this month.
As a runner, Kate Hibbard-Gibbons, the a psychology resident in charge of the jogging group, said the way she approaches fitness often “parallels” the way she approaches life. The same concept applies to the students in her group.
If a runner starts too fast or can’t keep a consistent pace, that might reveal how they approach academics, extracurriculars or a sustainable pace of life, Hibbard-Gibbons said.
“I think, for example, someone who might be struggling with body image might be engaging in comparing themselves to other group members, feeling like they’re taking up too much space as they’re jogging,” she said. “Thinking self-critical thoughts as you’re jogging, right? So my hope is that as we continue in the group, these things will come up and they’ll become … conversations on the table.”
The students in the group talk while they run. During the group’s first session, its participants also did a mindfulness activity while jogging and the session ended with a moment of gratitude.
Current psychological research also shows that “movement and activation” aid in combating symptoms of depression and regulating the brain’s frontal cortex, Hibbard-Gibbons said.
“We’re using our thinking brain and not relying only on emotion brain and rewiring our brain so that we can function better throughout the day,” Hibbard-Gibbons said.
When a student is interested in joining the jogging group, Hibbard-Gibbons meets with the student to ensure that they can run at a 12-minute mile pace, which is a conversational pace. If a student needs to walk during a session, the group will walk together.
Right now, the group is intentionally kept small, at four to five students, because Hibbard-Gibbons is the only facilitator, she said. This semester is a “pilot” semester, and the first session met in mid-February. The current group will meet weekly for one hour for seven weeks, and Hibbard-Gibbons will start another seven-week group shortly after spring break.
Currently, CPS offers a total of 10 group therapy options.
In a group therapy evaluation during the Fall semester of 2019, about 89% of students said that group therapy helped them feel less alone and about 90% of students said that they would recommend group therapy to a friend, according to the CPS website.
“Group (therapy) can be really powerful because not only do you have that support from the mental health professional or the group facilitator, but you’re getting that kind of support from your peers,” said Dr. Susan Folger, a psychologist and group coordinator at CPS. “That can help people feel less alone in their distress.”
Group therapy also provides a venue for students to practice new behaviors and receive feedback from peers, Dr. Folger said.
When considering a new group therapy option, CPS considers interest, demand and feedback from students, as well as the feasibility and the benefits of running a program.
Though the jogging group is the only new therapy group, CPS also debuted two new workshops this semester, Dr. Folger said. The three-week series repeats monthly in February, March and April, and the workshop offers two groups: one for students with symptoms of depression and one for students with symptoms of anxiety.
CPS also offers a Coping Clinic, a one-time workshop during which students can learn relevant coping skills. The workshop is offered at Hudson and Lindley Hall during several one-hour time slots each week from January 28 to April 24.
Group therapy is covered by the OHIO Guarantee and the WellBeing Fee, which are associated with tuition, according to the CPS website. Students interested in any group therapy option should first attend drop-in hours on the third floor of Hudson Health Center, Monday through Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated Kate Hibbard-Gibbons’ title. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.
Originally published in The Post on February 21, 2020.