A Structured Group Coaching Program for Mastering Anxiety in Higher Education: An Exploratory Study

Document Type



Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This abstract is located on pg. 45 of the linked conference proceedings.


The purpose of this presentation is to present a program used to help facilitate reduction of anxiety in students that is inversely correlated with academic success. Students pursuing higher education across a variety of declared majors are often times required to take mathematics prerequisites before being able to take higher level discipline specific courses. However, recent studies have identified that more than 50% of entry level college students were unprepared for introductory college math courses (Stevenson, Clerkin, & Stephens, 2012). Contemporary changes in educational practices have incorporated technology into learning and new technologies, testing, and subject matter that is perceived as difficult- are all constructs that are commonly associated with anxiety. Respectively or in combination these constructs may create barriers to success in higher education. Subject related anxiety (especially math anxiety) has been associated with lower levels of learning mastery, lower levels of motivation, and higher levels of avoidance of completing required coursework thus sabotaging academic success. The resultant anxiety is associated with deficits in working memory; this means anxiety competes for working memory resources needed to fuel higher order thinking and problem solving skills (Ashcraft & Krause, 2007). The authors have implemented an open coaching/counseling group based intervention to assist college students with confronting these challenges to learning and mastering anxiety. Pre-tests were conducted to evaluate math anxiety and efficacy. The structured coaching/counseling system containing principles from cognitive behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy, and some components of other theoretical approaches and was implemented using a curriculum from the School Counselor Resource series (Knight & West, 2010) with other value added strategies. These will be described and explained. Data from this exploratory/descriptive study will be discussed and strategies and techniques from the program will be provided with sample activities and implications for educators, counselors, and student services staff.