The goal of this project was to create and evaluate a brief, online course for students that teaches helpful skills for coping with difficult emotions (e.g., anxiety, sadness/homesickness, anger) that commonly occur in the transition to college. A total of 243 incoming freshman students were randomly assigned to either receive the course (120 students) or assessments only (123 students), and were followed up at one month, six months, and eight months. Satisfaction ratings and student feedback indicated that the majority of students were highly satisfied with the course and found the skills helpful. Of note, students who were randomized to receive the course had significantly higher grade point averages for the Fall 2017 semester compared to the control condition. However, there were no significant differences between conditions on symptom outcomes. Future research could examine whether these results would be the same if the program was tested in a selected sample of students who were already experiencing symptoms. Overall, this study suggests that a brief (i.e., 1-2 hour), emotion-focused, online program may be helpful for first-year college students. However, this brief intervention may not significantly impact mental health variables.
Sauer-Zavala, S., Tirpak, J. W., Eustis, E. H., Woods, B. K., & Russell, K. (2020). Unified Protocol for the transdiagnostic prevention of emotional disorders: Evaluation of a brief, online course for college freshmen. Behavior Therapy.
The project team presented some of the pilot findings at the Annual Conference of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America in 2021 (virtually due to Covid-19). Please see the poster below.
Nauphal, M., Eustis, E. H., Harris, B. E., & Sauer-Zavala, S. (2021, March). Pilot study of an online emotion-focused skills-based course for students awaiting care at university health services.