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Women s Therapy Group provides needed support


By Kim Wilson
Campus Life Staff

Three to one. To most people these words have no special meaning, but at Georgia Tech they symbolize a big part of campus life. The three to one ratio of men to women at Georgia Tech can be viewed positively or negatively. Some women at Tech feel that the ratio does nothing more than make it easier for them to get dates while others feel that they are often overlooked in such a setting where they are a profound minority.

There is a group on campus that exists to provide women a setting in which to discuss their feelings about these and other issues affecting women at Georgia Tech: the Women s Therapy Group.

The Women s Therapy Group at Georgia Tech has been in existence for many years. It was originally developed as a support group for women who had been raped; however, not many people came forward to join it.

Over the years, it has evolved into a group whose stated purpose is to provide a safe and confidential place for women students to discuss concerns relevant to them and to what it is like to be a woman at Georgia Tech. The group is led by Dr. Carolyn Wierson and Jennifer Crumbley, both employees in the Georgia Tech Counseling Center

In the past, the women in the group have found it very helpful and supportive. Most participants have stayed with the group from the time they joined until they graduated or otherwise left Georgia Tech. Common concerns of the participants are that they have felt very isolated and that it s hard for them to find other women on campus that they trust to talk with.

They therefore enjoy the opportunity to talk with other women who have had the same experiences they have and to learn from the ways in which others have handled their problems. This opportunity is afforded to them by their participation in the group.

Dr. Wierson feels that this group fulfills a vital need on Georgia Tech s campus. Women who feel they they been discriminated against are afraid to go to anybody in authority about these concerns because they re afraid the cost will be too high, or that they will get hurt in some way. They just keep it all inside, push it down, and wonder if there s something wrong with them because they don t see anybody else that seems to be having the same problem, said Wierson.

Wierson is encouraged, however, by the measures Georgia Tech is taking to ensure gender equity on campus. This year, for instance, over 40 presentations will be made to over 1200 faculty and staff to make them more aware of how they may be unintentionally treating women differently in the classroom. These presentations have the full support of all the colleges on campus.

However, Dr. Wierson said, I think it s going to be a long, long, long time before this campus becomes really user-friendly for women.

In the meantime, the Women s Therapy Group provides a place where women can come to safely and confidentially express their concerns. In this group, safe means that nothing said in the group will be criticized; confidential means that every participant agrees to maintain confidentiality.

None of the participants talk about the group outside of the group. Even if two members meet outside of the group, they don t reveal that they know each other from the group. This helps all of the members to feel secure that what they say will be kept within the group.

The size of the Women s Therapy Group is limited to five to eight people. This number range has been determined with the idea that with fewer than five people, it is no longer a group. Conversely, with more than eight, the participants do not get enough individual time and attention.

Unlike many groups at Tech, this group does not have purely open admission. Dr. Wierson does initial screenings to determine whether the group is appropriate for you. Sometimes people have needs that should be dealt with through individual therapy, or very specific needs which are unsuited to the more general group environment.

The group is open for the first three sessions of each quarter for new members and then closes for the quarter and does not accept any more. This is practiced so that the members can get to know each other and build up trusting relationships with one another.

The group is now closed for Fall Quarter, but will reopen at the beginning of Winter Quarter. It is for all female students, graduate and undergraduate.

I think there is kind of a chilly climate here for women, and until everybody gets involved in trying to make it warmer, I don t think it will change that much, said Dr. Wierson. But I do think it can change.

If you are interested in joining the Women s Therapy Group, contact Dr. Wierson or Crumbley at 894-2575 or stop by the Georgia Tech Counseling Center.

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Copyright © 1996 by David L. Skinner, Editor and by the Student Publications Board