March 5, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Clinic Offers Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group

VALDOSTA — Beginning March 6, Valdosta State University’s FamilyWorks will host IAM: Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. The group is open to men and women ages 13 and older. Attendees will explore how to cope with fear and anxiety, overcome guilt and shame, regain control, deal with trauma and trust, and more.

Riece Hamilton, a graduate assistant in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, came up with the idea for the support group while volunteering with The Haven, a local nonprofit agency that provides emergency temporary shelter and services to victims of family violence and sexual assault in nine counties.

“I realized that I could be a bridge between the two organizations, FamilyWorks and The Haven, and pool my resources to add one more opportunity of support for the community regarding this issue,” she said. “I brought the idea up with a group of second-year [graduate] students in our program and they, too, felt strongly that this was needed. We want everyone to know that this service is available. Our goal is to emphasize that these people are survivors rather than victims and that they have a story that deserves to be told.”

Regardless of their ability to pay, no one is denied therapy services at FamilyWorks, the VSU-based clinic operated by the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. Seven days a week, clinic staff members help clients of all ages — from children to senior citizens — find solutions to whatever problems they may be experiencing.

According to information provided by the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, services are offered “to all people who seek them, regardless of age, gender, race, political or religious affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, education, economic status, disability, or ethnic background.”

Although Marriage and Family Therapy faculty members serve in a supervisory role and see a few clients, FamilyWorks is truly a student-run clinic. First-year graduate students handle the intake process, including scheduling a client’s first appointment, gathering relevant background and contact information, documenting exactly what prompted the client to seek therapy, and matching the client with a therapist. Advanced standing graduate students serve as the therapists.

Basically a large group brief therapy practice, clients can be seen by individual therapists, a pair of therapists, or a faculty- or student-run consultation team. FamilyWorks deals with many different kinds of problems, from anger management and anxiety to divorce and depression to sexual issues and substance abuse to domestic violence, grief and loss, child behavior issues, and more. The therapist’s goal is to help the client make the changes he or she wants to make, taking into account every aspect of the client’s life and focusing on the client’s natural resources.

Clients are referred by outside agencies, but the biggest source of client referrals is other clients.

FamilyWorks is open seven days a week, year-round. The majority of services are provided between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. However, if therapists wish to schedule sessions outside of those hours, based on the needs of their clients, they can do so.

Because FamilyWorks is a not-for-profit clinic seeking to provide low-cost therapy services to everyone and train advanced level graduate students, fees for sessions are based on a sliding scale and can be totally free of charge, depending on family size and income. However, no one will be denied services due to their inability to pay.

Clients come from as far away as Nashville, Cairo, and Jennings, Fla., for therapy services. The student therapists also serve the community outside FamilyWorks in such organizations as Hospice of South Georgia, the Lowndes County Partnership for Health, the Migrant Farmworkers Clinic, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and others.

In addition to the newly formed IAM: Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group, FamilyWorks offers group therapy for couples at 6 p.m. on Mondays. A group called Spectrum Connection meets at 7:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. It “offers an intimate and safe environment for people of diverse identities to share experiences, questions, and concerns about issues relevant to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community,” said Joshua Waters, Marriage and Family Therapy Program graduate assistant and group coordinator.

FamilyWorks is located at 903 N. Patterson St. in the one-story annex connected to the Continuing Education building.

VSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program leads to a Master of Science degree.

To schedule an appointment with a therapist, please call (229) 219-1281. Services are confidential to the fullest extent of the law, and all clinic staff members adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards in their relationship with clients.

FamilyWorks does not provide psychiatric or emergency services. If clients seek medication or are in need of psychiatric care, clinic therapists can refer them to community resources — a hospital emergency room, Behavioral Health Services, The Haven, etc. — that handle emergencies.

To learn more about VSU’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program, please call (229) 219-1281 or visit