Getting emotional support for PhD students


I'm thinking about trying to set up some kind of group which could meet up an offer emotional support for PhD students at my University.

The idea would be to have a group that met regularly (perhaps fortnightly?) that will fill a support gap (at my University at least). It would provide a place where you can talk about the emotional stuff of the PhD when it not going so well - the stress, the feeling overwhelmed, the uncertainty that you're good enough, the isolation, the slog, but also the things you do to help you deal with this and work through it. For example things that help me are going for coffee with friends, walking in the park, taking time out, asking my supervisors to clarify feedback, and finding someone to have a good laugh with, just getting started for 20 minutes...

My University is great at offering lots of research training, reading groups and seminars - but it's all academic and intellectual support. What emotional support there is tends to be short courses run by the counselling service that don't provide ongoing support. Most are also not targeted at PhD students.

My reasons for wanted to improve support this are partly selfish, I've experienced both anxiety and depression while doing my PhD, (I'm in my second year now), and would like a group like this to build up a bigger support network of people I can talk to about the emotional challenge of doing a PhD. But from other people I've spoken to, and comments I seen on this forum, I suspect there's a real need for this. I personally would also like to meet people in person - not just discuss things through a forum - although I know that really helps lots of people.

I'm not sure of the best way to go about this - or what other people might like from a group like this. So I'm turning to you for some ideas please.

Has anyone any experience of going along to a group like this at their University that's worked well (or not so well) that they could share?

If you University had a group like this, what would you want it to do, how would you want it to work? Do you think it would work best as a student union society or as something separate?




Check the end of chapter 7 (pg104) The Dissertation Support Group, in 'Writing you Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day' by Joan Bolker.

My university has nothing like this, neither does my faculty or department. Several attempts of setting it up within the department either degraded into social discussions (non phd related) or people stopped attending.

Best of luck!


Hi Still_Exploring

Bloody brilliant idea!! Much needed, and I'd go! I'd be there every week complaining about this torturous life-style!!! My only concern would be that it could get derailed my students going off-topic, and also that students may feel a bit self-conscious about going to a support group. Could you get someone from your uni's counselling service to attend too, so it has a bit more formality, and there's also professional help for students who are in real trouble?

Good luck with it, hope it gets up and running.


Hi all,

Is the idea of setting up the support group still on?

I am in need of it :)