The next time students want to ease the pressure of finals with some time in a massage chair, they won’t need to look any further than the Union.

The Wellness Zone, established by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, officially opened last night in the Union. The Zone was created to promote emotional and mental health among students. The Zone’s services, which include chair massages throughout the day and special movie nights, are free for students.

The Zone also has a biofeedback program, video game technology for meditation and a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp. Additionally, the Zone will offer workshops on topics including meditation, mindfulness techniques and yoga.

In an interview at yesterday’s event, CAPS Director Todd Sevig said the idea for the Zone has been around for a while. University research has shown that improving emotional stability can help significantly diminish psychological issues students face, he said.

“Wellness and well-being for college students has really been on the rise,” said Christine Asidao, assistant director of Outreach and Education for CAPS.

Though in part due to the office’s faculty and funding expansion, 3,362 students went to CAPS last year — an increase from the 3,127 students who visited the office in the 2008-2009 school year, according to the CAPS 2009-2010 annual report.

Funding for the Zone — now open each weekday — came from existing CAPS resources and is a part of the office’s five-year master plan, Sevig said.

The Zone’s primary goal is to encourage emotional wellness to prevent serious psychological problems, Sevig said. And while Sevig said he hopes the Zone can be used to help those already seeking treatment through CAPS, he is hopeful the new center can reach out to students who have never been to CAPS before.

Asidao said she anticipates the “wellness center will essentially attract a lot of students who don’t necessarily want to come in for therapy, but who would really benefit from just learning how to relax.”

Asidao and Sevig emphasized that students’ input is especially important since the Zone is tailored to them.

“We as professionals can think of all kinds of great things, but if it doesn’t meet student needs, for us that would violate our mission and everything that we stand for,” Sevig said.

The CAPS student advisory board — a group of 18 members who meet monthly with Sevig and Asidao to provide student perspectives on CAPS — played a key role in developing plans for the Zone. When a space opened on the third floor of the Union over the summer, CAPS realized a wellness center could truly become a reality and approached the student advisory board with the idea at the beginning of last semester.

LSA senior Emily Green, a member of the student advisory board, said she thinks the Zone will provide students with a good place to relax.

“It’s not about studying, it’s about recharging, regrouping, sitting in a massage chair for twenty minutes and just kind of letting the day de-stress,” Green said.

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