Stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness of graduate counseling students: the effectiveness of group counseling and exercise
Byars, Jonna Lynn
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Less than 50% of those who enter graduate school complete their advanced degree. The stressors graduate students often face include interpersonal stressors, life and role transition stressors, financial concerns, employment problems, and time constraints. Despite the large amount of investigations examining the stress levels of graduate students, few propose a solution. This study was conducted to fill this gap in the literature by implementing group counseling and exercise into the lives of master’s level graduate students in the field of counseling. This study examined the effectiveness of group counseling and exercise in alleviating the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness in graduate counseling students. Participants in this study self-selected into one of three treatment groups: exercise, group counseling, or control. All participants were enrolled in a master’s level counseling class in a CACREP accredited program. A total of 57 graduate students participated in this study; 17 were in the group counseling treatment group, 19 were in the exercise treatment group, and 21 were in the control treatment group. Participants in the group counseling group met for 1.5 hours per week for 10 weeks and participated in group counseling led by a doctoral level counselor. Participants in the exercise group exercised for 45 minutes twice per week for 10 weeks. Participants in the control group received no treatment for 10 weeks. This study utilized a quasi-experimental nonrandomized pretest/posttest design. MANCOVA was used to test for significance among the groups. The following instruments were employed at both pretest and posttest: (1) the Beck Depression Inventory, (2) the Beck Anxiety Inventory, (3) the Perceived Stress Scale, and (4) the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Results of this study indicate both group counseling and exercise significantly reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in graduate counseling students as compared to the control group. No significant differences were found between the effectiveness of group counseling and exercise in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression in graduate counseling students. Results also suggest that group counseling is effective for alleviating symptoms of loneliness in graduate counseling students as compared to no treatment and exercise treatment. A comparison of the results of this study to previous research is provided, along with implications of this research for training, practice, and future research.