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SMCC Student Helps Lead Stress Reduction Group, Will Present at Arizona Suicide Prevention Conference Oct. 21

Katie Castello

A cross-country move can be a big decision, but what sealed the deal for psychology student Katie Castello was what she saw in SMCC’s Behavioral Health Sciences program, including its unique approach to the teaching methods, the interesting internship opportunities and the dedicated professors.

“I was impressed the instruction was by licensed counselors working in the field, professors who can share their experience in the program, and who use their experience with our own students,” Castello said. “It solidified my move.”

A native of Florida, Castello joined the program two years ago, when she became a work-study student in the Counseling Department. She then began an internship in the Spring 2020 with Dr. William Beverly, Director of the Behavioral Health Sciences Program at SMCC.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Castello utilized a combination of counseling skills and program development knowledge to support the launch of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Group, with Dr. Beverly.

“It was my first practice at being a therapist without providing actual therapy,” Castello said.  “I was able to practice what I learned in school with a licensed counselor supporting me along the way.”

The six-week program was introduced as a stress reduction group, and the team made it known it was not traditional counseling or psychotherapy.

“We created a space for the students to talk about their stress, and we utilized therapy, to an extent, changing it to fit these students in the capacity they needed with a licensed psychologist,” she said.

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Group ran for six weeks and explored a variety of weekly topics, such as Mind and Body Interactions, Identifying Automatic Negative Thoughts, breath meditation, body scan meditation, Doing vs. Being and Radical Acceptance. Castello and Dr. Beverly based their group on the theory developed by Jon Kabat Zinn, utilizing concepts that they knew were evidence-based and could help students manage their stress, especially during a global pandemic.

Dr. Beverly and Katie Costello were accepted to present at the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition HOPE Conference, October 21.

The conference presentation will be a first for Castello, but, she hopes, not her last.

“This is a program Dr. Beverly wants to continue,” said Castello. “Our community college needs this program to help support students manage stress, and the pressures from both college and life.”

Castello, who is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree through the 90/30 program with Northern Arizona University, plans to graduate and move on to pursue a Masters degree to become a therapist in the future.

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