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UNLV offers group therapy to cope with election results

Call it the post-election blues.

In the days since Nov. 8, UNLV’s Center for Individual, Couple and Family Counseling has seen clients who say they’re frightened, upset or worried by the process and outcome of the presidential election.

In response, the center last week began offering group therapy sessions — free to UNLV students and staffers and based on whatever is affordable to members of the public — to provide a forum for people to share their feelings in the wake of the election.

“We want to help them to feel safe about it so that they could go back to being their authentic selves,” said Katherine Hertlein, director of the marriage and family therapy program at the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs.

The therapy offering isn’t unique.

Across the country, numerous colleges and universities including UNLV have hosted events including open forums and therapy sessions to help students cope with their feelings about the election.

The 90-minute sessions at the Center for Individual, Couple and Family Counseling, which begin 3:30 p.m. on Fridays, will address people’s concerns about the election and their safety, as well as topics including resilience and empowerment, said Hertlein, who will join another staff member and graduate students in leading the discussions.

The first session took place last week, and because of the holiday this week, the sessions will resume Dec. 2 and run through Dec. 16. Visit the university’s website for further details.

The idea for the group gatherings is a result of observations by graduate students leading therapy sessions at the university that regular clients were spending session time talking about the election instead of the issues that were supposed to be the focus of their therapy.

“This would be a way for them to talk about the election without it disrupting their therapy,” Hertlein said.

Most of the concerned patients have been students, though UNLV staff and community members have also shown interest in an outlet to discuss the divisiveness of the election, she said.

Factors such as the holiday season and the role social media has played in perpetuating the divide between friends and family make the sessions even more important, she added.

“It becomes a really current issue around a dinner table, and part of what people have mentioned is, ‘How do I have a conversation with this person?’” she said.

If need be, the center will extend the program into the spring. The sessions aren’t targeted to members of a specific political party, and attendees can go to any or all of the sessions.

Supporters of both major party candidates have experienced severe disagreements with close friends and family, and that type of rift can cause people to reassess their relationships, Hertlein said.

For some people, the election has led to real fear and anxiety that needs to be addressed, she added.

“We all assume that we’ve got a shared value system in a family,” she said, “and this election is seeming to convince people that those shared values are not held.”

Contact Pashtana Usufzy at pusufzy@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @pashtana_u on Twitter.

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