By Kit Fitzgerald
Before this year there were no support groups for substance abuse on campus, but with the addition of Success, Not Excess, the University of Iowa is taking a step in that direction.
Darrel Kirby, the facilitator of the group and a clinical social worker at the University Counseling Service, said the recently established Recovery Services Committee formed the support group while looking for gaps in services for students in recovery.
Besides being the first group related to substance abuse on campus, Success, Not Excess is also the first support group run by the combined efforts of University Counseling and Student Health & Wellness, Kirby said.
“It’s unique in that we have two different offices on campus that have come together and are doing a shared service to meet the needs of students,” Kirby said. “Both Student Health and Wellness and [University Counseling] see a group of students that struggle with substance abuse, some who have gone through treatment, some are required to enter programs, others are looking for resources.”
Rachel Liddle, a co-facilitator of the group behavior health educator at Student Health, said she believes the two organizations bring different perspectives to Success, Not Excess.
Success, Not Excess is unlike most substance-abuse resources in Iowa City, she said.
“There hasn’t really been a student-specific support group out there where they can show up if and when they want to show up and stop when they want to stop,” Kirby said. “It’s a no-pressure, drop-in, confidential support group.”
The non-mandatory aspect of the group means that students don’t have to be in trouble or under obligation to attend. In fact, abstinence is not required, Kirby said. It’s for students who want to make a change in their substance use.
“It’s not treatment but a place where students can have a discussion,” Liddle said. “This group is a harm-reduction group that uses a nonjudgmental, strength-based approach.”
Students gather every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to share experiences, goals, tips, and support. Kirby and Liddle often don’t talk at all, Kirby said.
Kirby said these kind of resources are needed on campus.
“There is a group of students that identify as in recovery, quite possibly can’t use [alcohol or drugs] at all,” Kirby said. “On a college campus where there’s a decent amount of substance use, they can use some support.”
UI Student Government President Rachel Zuckerman agreed.
She said with the drinking culture and amount of binge drinking on campus, it can be hard for those in recovery to make better choices or identify with people who are in recovery.
Zuckerman included more substance-abuse resources as part of her platform last year, and she was a part of the committee that formed Success, Not Excess.
She said there are universities that have numerous resources for students in recovery, such as housing and more support groups. She said Iowa is far from that but is headed in the right direction.
“Being in recovery on a college campus is very different from other life circumstances,” Zuckerman said. “[Success, Not Excess] is the first step towards a new era for services for students.”