Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

The Effects of a Stress Management Course on Counselors-in-Training

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

The Effects of a Stress Management Course on Counselors-in-Training

Article excerpt

The effects of a stress management course on the stress knowledge and coping techniques of 101 graduate students in counseling were examined. Participants, drawn from various racial groups, were typically female (79%) and 21 to 55 years of age. Seven of the 8 null hypotheses were rejected. There were significant differences on 6 of the 7 dependent variables (overall knowledge of stress, perceived state and trait anxiety, stress response to positive and negative self-statements, and general and current stress level). The treatment group learned and implemented stress management strategies to better cope with stress. Recommendations and further directions for research are offered.

Keywords: stress management, stress management coping techniques, counselors, counselor education, graduate school


Stress and stress-related symptoms are a part of the lives of graduate students, including those in counselor preparation programs. Stress is a major concern for graduate students as they struggle with a variety of academic, personal, financial, and social issues (Cooke, Sims, & Peyrefitte, 1995; Di Pierro, 2010; Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2007; Oswalt & Riddock, 2007; Ross, Niebling, Bradley, & Heckert, 1999). Graduate students face more pressures than undergraduate students because they typically balance more responsibilities while in school, including full-time employment, marriage, children, aging parents, more challenging academic and degree requirements, extremely limited spare time, higher tuition, and loan repayments from previous degrees (Calicchia & Graham, 2006; Cooke et al., 1995; Di Pierro, 2010; Hudson & O'Regan, 1994; Oswalt & Riddock, 2007; Saunders & Balinsky, 1993). These are all factors over which the graduate student has little control. Because removing these stressors is usually not an option, the graduate student needs to learn ways to cope with them while maintaining satisfactory progress in the graduate program (Di Pierro, 2010; Saunders & Balinsky, 1993).

Even in a well-managed life, one will experience daily stressors. Girdano, Everly, and Dusek (2001) stated that stress can "be implicated in at least 80 percent of the illnesses that plague modern society" (p. 1). Selye (1991) defined stress as the result of any demand that is placed on the body, whether psychological or physiological. Selye (1936) first described the physiological changes occurring during the stress response in the body, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, muscle tension, and changes in metabolism. According to Girdano et al. (2001), "Even stress that is not particularly severe can, if prolonged, fatigue and damage the body to the point of malfunction and disease" (p. 2). In contrast, the American Institute of Stress declared that there is not a common definition of stress that researchers agree on, because stress affects everyone differently and to varying degrees (see Rosch, 2007). The sources of stressful demands are environmental, physiological, sociological, and psychological (Davis, Eshelman, & McKay, 2000). "A more immediate consequence is that excess stress robs us of joy in our lives" (Girdano et al., 2001, p. 2). Two terms used to describe the positive and negative aspects of stress are, respectively, eustress (e.g., improved performance, motivation, productivity, healthy moods, passing an examination, graduation) and distress (e.g., frustration, unhealthy moods, irritation, fatigue, illness, poor problem solving, lowered cognitive functioning; H. Smith, 2002). Optimal stress is the point between where one's peak performance occurs with a balance of eustress and distress (Girdano et al., 2001).

Graduate students in counselor preparation programs are inundated daily with an infinite number of internal and external stressful experiences, such as grades, comprehensive exams, professor demands, competition, intense worry, self doubt, and even isolation (F. …

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