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  September 29, 2003

Support Groups Address Relationship Issues

If you're looking for the secrets to a great marriage, how to build a lasting relationship or how to rebuild your life after divorce, help is available through three confidential support groups launched this semester by the University's Humphrey Center for Marital & Family Therapy.

"The groups start this month, continue weekly for six to 10 weeks, and are open to everyone - people on campus as well as the community at large," says Sarah Mack, a UConn master's level intern and the catalyst for the group sessions. Mack who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina, is one of the main co-facilitators. Other co-facilitators are Erica Diamond, Sally Lott, and Marisa Sotolongo, who are all in the master's program, and Matt Mutchler, a Ph.D. candidate.

The initiative is new this year. "Our goal is to help people develop and maintain healthy relationships and choose good partners," says Mack.

Enrollment is under way for three separate groups. Each group can accommodate up to 12 individuals.

If you're fighting for your marriage or want to better communicate with your spouse or significant other, you may want to attend the Couples Support Group. This group begins on Tuesday, Sept. 30, and meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost is $10 per couple per session, in addition to a materials fee that includes a handbook and two sets of notes to help participants follow the program.

The group is based on the nationally known Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, an approach to teaching couples how to communicate effectively, work as a team to solve problems, manage conflicts without damaging closeness, and preserve and enhance love, commitment, and friendship.

Another support group that is designed especially for individuals in the 18- to 25-year-old bracket entitled, "Building Relationships." Topics include a wide range of issues: romantic relationships and dating; preparing for and adjusting to long-term relationships, children, and parenting; communication skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving; gender and relationship roles; affection and sexuality; financial decisions; and values, beliefs, and behaviors. Also covered are "understanding one's family" and "looking toward the future." The group meets from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and the sessions got under way Sept. 23. The cost is $10 per session. Students can attend for $5 per session.

The Divorce Support Group for Adults provides a forum for participants to discuss their struggles with life after marriage. The sessions also suggest strategies for coping through a difficult period, and offer skills for rebuilding your life. Although this group began on Sept. 18, space may still be available. The group continues for 10 weeks on Thursdays, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost is $10 per session.

A fourth group, titled "Teen Talk," was designed to help teenagers discuss issues affecting them, but was dropped for lack of participants . It may be re-scheduled at another time.

All groups meet in the Humphrey Center for Marital and Family Therapy located on the second floor of the Human Development Building on the Storrs campus.

"We're starting from square one with this program and are optimistic that once it gets going, it will gain momentum by word-of-mouth and other vehicles," says Stephen Anderson, director of the Humphrey Center and of the Marriage and Family Therapy Training Program.

He credits Mack with launching the group sessions.

"All of our master's students do internships in a community setting, and Sarah wanted to broaden the experience with enrichment and support groups," says Anderson.

To sign up for the sessions, including those already under way, call the Humphrey Center at 860.486.3692 to determine if space is still available.