Freedom from smoking group provides support

By Chrissy Dill, Staff writer

Southeastern Oklahoma State University Counseling Services is providing a new opportunity that will significantly better the health of students, faculty and staff. The Freedom from Smoking Group at SE is an eight-week program that provides a supportive group setting to help participants break their smoking habit for good.

The first meeting of the Freedom from Smoking Group, organized by SE clinical counselors Debra Fulenchek and Jane McMillan, was held Jan. 25. Health and Counseling Services decided to hold this meeting at the beginning of January, hoping to help everyone with their quit-smoking New Year’s resolutions, according to Fulenchek.

There is no cost to join the Freedom from Smoking Group. According to Fulenchek, the only expense needed is $32 for the participant’s workbook, which includes relaxation CDs as well.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place in March, approximately the week after spring break. “Our goal is to continue to offer it,” said Fulenchek. “We know there are people who want to quit smoking, just like there are people who want to lose weight or any other health-related goal.”

For years the university has stressed the importance of good health to students and faculty, said Fulenchek, but the Freedom from Smoking Group is fairly new to SE. “We tried to do it in the fall,” said Fulenchek. “But we didn’t have enough participants turn out.”

SE Student Health Services are a great help to Counseling Services with their referrals for their group, said Fulenchek.

Director April Lehrling says the group will help students a great deal with their bad habit.

“The more variety and opportunity we can offer students, the more opportunities they have to succeed,” said Lehrling. “We hope it will have a positive impact.”

Though the group is currently offered to students and faculty, Fulenchek said they are hoping to spread throughout the community in the summer or fall of this year.

It began by being only offered to students, but was made available to faculty in the fall. “Everybody that’s on campus could benefit,” said Fulenchek.

The Freedom from Smoking Group provides individuals with eight sessions over eight weeks that will prepare them to quit smoking. Fulenchek and McMillan have been trained through the American Lung Association.

These eight sessions address many problems of smoking and inform the participants of the benefits of quitting. “We’re not trying to push values,” said Fulenchek. “We’re trying to meet needs.”

Group members will learn to identify the triggers for smoking and keep “pack tracks” that allow them to know how many cigarettes they have smoked throughout the day. This activity helps teach them to become aware of their habit and monitor triggers. “It resembles Weight Watchers,” explained Fulenchek.

According to the group’s session schedule provided by Fulenchek, during the first session participants are informed of the group’s agenda for the next eight weeks so they are fully aware of the program’s activities. Before anything else, the group will evaluate themselves to see if they are ready to quit. Then they will continue to keep track of their quitting process throughout the program.

After participants have completed three sessions, they will experience Quit Day in session four. They have the opportunity to visit with a panel of ex-smokers participate in a quitting ceremony and will receive awards for their efforts.

Following Quit Day, sessions five through eight are all about “the new you” and teach group members how to manage their stress, what to do if they slip and coping strategies. The group will discuss lifestyle changes and changing their self-image, as well as assess social situations.

Both Fulenchek and Lehrling believe the Freedom from Smoking Group will prove to be very effective for those who wish to quit. “The group setting and social support help reinforce the goal of quitting,” said Fulenchek. Lehrling added “Interacting with others trying to quit can have a very positive impact on someone.”

If you would like any information regarding the Freedom from Smoking Group, or would like to join, call Fulenchek at 745-2762 or Lehrling at 745-2867.