new ground on counseling survivors of trauma, sexual assault

From EurikAlert!

ProfCommunication studies Associate Professor Christina Yoshimura teaches courses in interpersonal communication, and her research focuses on how personal relationships intersect with larger systems, such as health care or the workplace. Yoshimura also volunteers as a clinical mental health counselor at UM's Curry Health Center Counseling Services in order to bring research out of academia and into the daily lives of students at UM.

…"In our culture there are so many things we give people specific teaching in, like how to calculate the circumference of a circle or how to drive a car," she said. "Yet even though we know from countless research studies that good relationships are essential to our health and well-being, and even though we know many communication behaviors that are correlated with healthy relationships, it is rare to find any of that taught to people outside of select university classes." For example, people often struggle to start a conversation with someone new, or handle conflict effectively. Yoshimura's practice-based counseling allows students to get an overview of productive relational communication skills and then practice them with one another. "This incorporates cognitive understanding of the skill with the repeated physical experience of using the skill," Yoshimura said. "Most people have room to improve their social functioning, and could experience less anxiety and more satisfying interpersonal interactions with even just a little practice." "I see communication as a powerful frame for understanding and improving our human experiences," she said. "Participating on the Department of Justice grant was deeply meaningful to me as a way of seeing, serving and respecting sexual assault survivors on campus. This is of the utmost importance here at UM, and it's also an issue of national importance. Providing an avenue for students to develop and refine their skills in building positive relationships is another way to serve the students on our campus. "Using the social science research in interpersonal communication to work directly in the lives of our students is an immense privilege," Yoshimura said, "and the obligation to do that well will continue to guide my choices here at the University and within our Missoula community."

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