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Peer Support Groups Take Shape at the Anschutz Medical Campus

By Kell​y Winkel, 2​​nd Year DPT Student

I am one of eight students and five faculty members at the Anschutz Medical Campus who have collaborated to create two interprofessional peer support groups for students. The Health and Wellness group focuses on issues like time management, test taking anxiety, and/or relationship management (from professional to personal relationships).  P-SMILE (Peer Support for Students with Mental Illness and Lived Experience) provides support for students who are struggling with any mental or emotional health concerns. 

Student group leaders received training from faculty to lead these sessions.  The idea was to create safe spaces in which students could come together and share their fears, struggles, and experiences, and the sessions are meeting these goals.  Faculty advisor and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Rachel David, MD said, "The groups have been great so far.  The peer leaders are doing an excellent job facilitating the groups and have offered good support to the students who have come." 

When interviewing for different schools, I was immediately drawn to the Anschutz Medical Campus because of its welcoming environment. There is a sense that the faculty and students really care about one another here.  The peer support groups are succeeding because of this. Graduate school is a time of big changes and high expectations, accompanied by high stress.  These peer support groups help to balance students’ lives and focus on themselves during the stressful time they are in school.

In each session I have led thus far, students have shared emotional experiences, offered advice to other members, and created an all-around respectful, safe environment in which sharing is encouraged.  Students have expressed how warm the atmosphere is and how grateful they are that these groups are taking place. For me, leading the sessions is invaluable and I will carry the experiences with me throughout the remainder of my schooling and into my career.​