Heightened stress levels and compromised well-being are common among college students (Calicchia & Graham, 2006; Kausar, 2010). Current trends on college campuses include an increase in the number of students that are experiencing mental health challenges, and an increase in students seeking help (Watkins et al., 2011). Based on these trends, recommendations include implementing alternative strategies such as group therapy and self-help programs designed to reduce stress and improve wellness (Kitzrow, 2003; Ratanasiripong, Sverduk, Hayashino, & Prince, 2010). While evidence supports positive implications of health and wellness-based academic courses and other long-term models (Conley, Travers, & Bryant, 2013; Lockwood & Wohl, 2012), data is lacking pertaining to the effectiveness of short-term wellness-based interventions.
Research indicates that chronic illness is largely driven by lifestyle behaviors, linking factors such as inactivity, diet, smoking, and sustained stress with an increased risk for major illness and death (Smith et al., 2013). This evidence has contributed to a paradigm shift toward a holistic understanding of health and mediating factors. According to Myers, Sweeney and Witmer (2000), wellness is “a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being, in which mind, body, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community” (p. 252).
Critical to a short-term, wellness-based intervention is the integration of an evidence-based approach to facilitating change. Though the majority of wellness interventions examined in the research utilize a psycho-educational approach,
evidence supports that therapeutically based counseling and coaching approaches can be effective in facilitating wellness-based lifestyle change. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a strengths-based therapeutic approach defined by its emphasis on constructing solutions rather than resolving problems, and the assumption that clients have the resources and capacity to change (Gingerich & Eisengart, 2000).
This research study examined the effects of a short-term, solution-focused wellness intervention on perceived stress and wellness of college students. Eligible participants were randomly assigned to seven-week experimental or control groups. Longitudinal outcomes within groups, and between-group comparisons of experimental and control groups, were examined across multiple assessment points. Measures included the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Karmack, & Mermelstein, 1983) and the Five Factor Wellness Evaluation of Lifestyle (Myers & Sweeney, 1999). The primary analysis included a repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) augmented by an Applied Thematic Analysis (Guest, MacQueen, & Namey, 2011). Findings indicated that a brief (seven-week) solution-focused wellness intervention can significantly improve perceptions of wellness and stress among college students, and is more effective than treatment as usual. Additionally, outcomes support some lasting impact of the intervention over time.