The Counseling Center at the University of Miami has been used for group therapy, short-term individual therapy and outreach programs, but now a focused support group could widen the center’s reach even further.
Sisters in Sharing, a drop-in support group for women of color, was founded by Dr. Kisha Bazelais, a licensed psychologist and Dr. Haana Ali, a psychology resident. Open to clients and non-clients of the Counseling Center, the program was organized as a safe space for women of color to discuss topics of interest and offer support to one another.
Ali says that looking back to her own experience in college, a support group to deal with the challenges of being a minority woman in college would have been helpful.
“The group is open to what participants want to discuss,” Ali said. “We’re helping minority students adjust on campus where there’s a majority group, how to process what they’re feeling and to validate what people are experiencing.”
UM students of all ages are encouraged to attend and take part in the discussion. The group is structured so that attendees can drop in on a session, with Bazelais and Ali both available to guide the discussion.
Discussion at each meeting will focus on a theme. Though topics like familial, academic challenges and relationship are universal struggles, Sisters in Sharing also deals with specific areas such as race, culture, sexuality, gender and discrimination.
Chika Gbenoba, a freshman studying psychology, believes this support group is a great idea.
“Just as a place for women of color to come together and relate to one another, it’s so important,” she said. “Maybe it’s a place they can call home.”
Bazelais and Ali, both women of color, have personally experienced challenges of this nature and felt a need to offer a group like this to the UM community, having successfully conducted similar support groups in the past.
“This type of support group can help these women feel less marginalized and better able to cope with concerns related to race and gender, as well as other issues,” Ali said.
Bazelais and Ali say that women of color face unique challenges, particularly in academic settings. Issues of racism, sexism and discrimination can be overwhelming to handle on one’s own.
Ali stresses that the attending the sessions is informal and non-binding, as it is just an opportunity to share and understand the issues that unite these women.
“The hope is that participants will have a better understanding of themselves as racial or cultural beings, be more equipped to manage the unique challenges of being a person of color and develop more support on campus,” Ali said.