By Dr. Mary Jo Coiro, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland
College students face lots of stress, including forming new relationships, choosing a major, finding a job, and struggling with finances.As a result, some students develop mental health problems – such as depression, anxiety, or just feeling overwhelmed - that interfere with their social or academic life. The good news is, help is available.
Psychologists at Loyola are conducting research to address this important problem. In 2016 Jason Parcover, Ph.D, the director of Loyola’s Counseling Center and an instructor in the psychology department, started offering a three-week group program called RIO, in which students learn mindfulness skills to help them manage stress and difficult emotions. Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist meditation, and can be defined as purposeful, nonjudgmental awareness in the present moment. Students learn to notice and accept painful emotions and situations, and to focus on the here and now rather than worrying about the future or rethinking the past. Loyola students can attend RIO, whether or not they are also seeing an individual counselor. Students can learn more about RIO at on the counseling center website group services page.
Dr. Parcover worked with Dr. Coiro in the Psychology Department, Dr. Esther Finglass, another psychologist at the Counseling Center and affiliate faculty in the psychologydepartment, and Emily Barr, a former masters’ student in the clinical psychology program practitioner track, to evaluate how RIO helped students. They followed 78 Loyola students who participated in the mindfulness program, and 109 Loyola students who did not, and found that the students in the mindfulness program reported less depression, stress and anxiety, and more mindfulness skills, even three weeks after the program ended. They also liked the program and thought it helped them deal better with problems. These results were recently published in the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy.
This research collaboration is just one of the ways that Loyola faculty and graduate students are working together to improve students’ mental health, and to contribute to the science on effective interventions.