The Center for Wellbeing at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga is offering students pathways to recovery and self-improvement through group counseling sessions.
The director of the Center for Wellbeing, Megan McKnight, helped launch the new Mocs Recovery program in spring 2022.
The Center for Wellbeing’s mission is to provide students at UTC with the support they need to grow personally and academically. The Center educates students on mental health, substance use and suicide prevention.
Now, McKnight has a new hire to help with Mocs Recovery, Cynthia Fallowfield.
“Cynthia is in a new graduate assistant role. We’ve had a graduate assistant in our office, but this year we’re able to get funding to bring in a graduate assistant to focus on the recovery program and our substance misuse education,” said McKnight.
In addition to coordinating with the other recovery groups, Fallowfield also leads her own.
Fallowfield leads the All Recovery group, which is for anyone in mental health recovery or substance misuse recovery.
The All Recovery group, which meets on Thursdays at 5 p.m. in University Center Room 154, is one of four weekly recovery groups and is ideal for newcomers.
“The curriculum is really gauged around what are the struggles this week, what type of discussions can we have that are broader, that can accommodate somebody walking in for their first session as opposed to somebody that’s been there for five in a row,” said Fallowfield.
She said she fosters a friendly and relaxed environment by starting the meetings with a fun icebreaker and pizza.
Another group is called SMART Recovery, an acronym for “self-management and recovery training.”
“SMART is an evidence-based model for specifically engaging in substance use recovery conversations. It’s very embedded in cognitive behavioral theory and thinking about thoughts, how they relate to behaviors,” said McKnight.
The SMART Recovery group meets on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in UC 152.
Tanner Smith leads the LGBTQ+ All Recovery group which meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Prism Center (Lupton Hall Room 116).
Like the general All Recovery group, LGBTQ+ All Recovery caters to students struggling with any mental health challenges or substance abuse problems, but it is focused on LGBTQ+ students and allies.
Smith is a counseling intern at the Center for Wellbeing pursuing a master’s degree in counselor education.
He said having an LGBTQ+ specific group is important.
“There can be a big sense of otherness whenever someone discloses some sort of non-traditional identity in a group that’s not specific for that, then everyone turns their attention to that, and it becomes a big deal. Whereas in a group where everyone has some sort of identity like that, we’re not here to really talk about that per se. We’re not going to pathologize a certain identity,” said Smith.
Luke Marsicano leads the Healing Through Harmony: Mental Health Recovery group that meets on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in UC 154.
Marsicano is a junior majoring in music therapy. He helped start the group out of a desire to provide this kind of support.
“My first year here was difficult. I had a lot of mental health struggles. During the summer of that year, I reached out to the Center for Wellbeing about something like this. I didn’t have it all figured out, but we were talking over the summer and they said they had been interested in starting something like this,” said Marsicano.
Many of the sessions focus on lyric analysis, where the group listens to a song and then explores the meaning of the lyrics and how they relate to their personal experiences.
The core of the meetings is being able to talk about struggles with other people and share ways that we could work through them. I think that the music is just a good way to get there,” said Marsicano.
The idea of harm reduction is stitched through all these recovery groups, especially those focused on substance misuse.
“We take a harm reduction approach in our recovery program and leave lots of room for folks who are finding support and a community within the recovery program and may think about recovery differently. We’ve also expanded that model from substance use alone. What does recovery really mean for folks who may have a mental health diagnosis, experienced an eating disorder or another process addiction, whether it’s from gambling, pornography, or any of those things? What does that look like?” said McKnight.
Often when people think of harm reduction, they think of highly politicized topics like needle exchanges. McKnight said harm reduction has been used for a long time to address various public health concerns.
“Real-world examples of harm reduction include hand washing and seat belts. There’s lots of things that we already do and normalize as a society that are harm reduction techniques,” she said.
Fallowfield said harm reduction continues to be stigmatized.
“There’s still such stigma around it, but maybe by getting the word out about harm reduction, and we recognize that you’re still going to use, but how can we make sure that you’re safe and that you stay alive?” said Fallowfield.
* * * * *
Medication Take Back
The Center for Wellbeing is holding a Medication Take Back Event from 10 a.m.-noon on Tuesday, Nov. 28, in the University Center Lobby. Stop by their table to drop off unused or expired medication and let them dispose it for you. They will also be providing Deterra medication disposal packs for home disposal and free prescription lockboxes—which keep your medications safe and ensures only the person prescribed the medication has access to it.
Bring expired or unused prescription, over-the-counter, or pet meds to be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card.
Why should you participate?
- Flushing and throwing away medication pollutes our water system.
- Leaving unused medications around provides an opportunity for misuse by others.
- Sharing prescribed medication is illegal and dangerous.
- It keeps you organized and frees space in your cabinets.
The collection process:
- Please bring prescriptions in the original containers with your personal information crossed out.
- Bring prescription, over-the-counter and even pet medication.
- DO NOT bring needles, IV bags or radioactive medications. Contact your health care provider for information regarding disposal of these items.
This initiative is aimed at providing our community with a safe way to dispose of expired or unused medication. UTC also has a permanent disposal box located at the UTC Police Department.