Randomized Controlled Trials Assessing Efficacy of Brief Web-Based Stress Management Interventions for College Students During the COVID Pandemic

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2 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of brief, self-guided web-based interventions for decreasing distress among U.S. college students during the pandemic. Three randomized controlled trials were conducted during the spring (Study 1), summer (Study 2), and fall (Study 3) 2020 terms, and were combined into one sample to increase power (N = 775). We evaluated a web-based intervention that focused on increasing present control that had been shown to be effective in several studies prior to the pandemic (e.g., Nguyen-Feng et al., 2017). This intervention was compared to an active comparison condition (psychoeducation about and reminders to engage in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)- recommended stress management techniques) in Study 1, to a waitlist comparison in Study 2, and to both comparison conditions in Study 3. Participants were undergraduate psychology students at two campuses of a midwestern state university system. Outcomes—perceived stress (primary); depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms (secondary); and boredom (tertiary)—were assessed at pretest and posttest (and 3-week follow-up in Study 3). Differences across conditions were significant for perceived stress, stress symptoms, and boredom (but not depression or anxiety). Contrary to hypotheses, the Present Control and CDC stress management interventions were equally effective. Both were more effective than no intervention (betweengroup ds = −0.27 and −0.42). Both interventions were more effective for students with higher baseline stress levels. Completion and adherence rates were high for both conditions. Results suggest that very brief, self-guided stress management interventions can be effective in reducing stress among college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-324
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of counseling psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 23 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The trial was not preregistered. Portions of the datawere included in Frazier et al. (2021) and presented at the annual meetings of the Association for Psychological Science in May 2022 and the American Psychological Association in August 2022. Full access to the interventions is available upon reasonable request. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Our work was funded by a grant from the University of Minnesota Office of Academic and Clinical Affairs. The authors thank Alexa Asplund for assistance in conducting this research and Allie Cooperman for statistical consulting.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • college students
  • pandemic
  • stress management interventions
  • web-based

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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