The Effects of Two Types of Relaxation Training on Students' Levels of Anxiety

Article excerpt

Findings from several studies (Hill & Sarason, 1966; Lunneburg, 1964; Sarason, 1975) have shown that high anxiety has adverse effects on student learning. Though anxiety may be an unavoidable part of life, May (1977) points out that it can be reduced, and several researchers have developed approaches to reduce anxiety. In the present study, two of these approaches, behavioral relaxation training (Schilling & Poppen, 1983) and progressive muscle relaxation training (Bernstein & Borkovec, 1973) were examined to determine which approach, if either, fosters lower state and trait anxiety in male and female high school students. These approaches were compared with one another, as 'well. as with a no-treatment control group.


Eighty-eight high school students originally volunteered to participate, though only 55 (26 males and 29 females) actually completed all phases. There were 18 students in the behavioral relaxation group (Group 1; 9 males and 9 females), 20 students in the progressive relaxation group (Group 2; 9 males and 11 females), and 17 students in the no-treatment control group (8 males and 9 females). All training was done for Groups I and 2 via videotaped instructions of the appropriate relaxation technique. A male and a female counseling intern alternated as the therapist and the client in the videotapes. The students were seated in a large auditorium and asked to imitate the different exercises demonstrated by the client in the videotape. Both Groups 1 and 2 completed four 20-minute training sessions :in two weeks. The day after the last treatments were administered to Groups 1 and 2, all three groups were asked to complete the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970).


Regarding state anxiety scores, a 3 x 2 analysis of variance revealed a significant treatment effect, F(2, 49) = 5.99, p [less than] .005, but no significant gender effect, F(1,49) = 1.66, p [greater than] .05, nor a significant interaction effect, F(2, 49) = 1.80, p [greater than] .05. A Tukey post hoc analysis found that the state anxiety scores for Group 1 (mean = 37.33) and Group 2 (mean = 37.75) did not vary significantly from one another, but were both significantly lower than the state anxiety scores for the students in the no-treatment group (mean = 44.53). Regarding trait anxiety scores, a 3 x 2 analysis of variance failed to reveal any significant differences as a function of treatment, F(2, 49) = 0.61, p [greater than] .05, students' gender, F(1, 49) = 0.00, p [greater than] .05, or the interaction between these two variables, F(2, 49) = 0.92, p [greater than] .05.

These findings indicate that both the behavioral relaxation approach and the progressive relaxation approach are capable of helping high school students reduce their state anxiety. Notably, Lasselle and Russell (1993) reported that progressive relaxation had been placed on a list of techniques that high school counselors could use with their students in group counseling, but that behavioral relaxation failed to be included as an option. In light of the findings here, however, it would seem appropriate to include the latter approach, too, as a possible therapeutic procedure that could be used effectively in group counseling, especially when the goal is to :reduce students' state anxiety. …