College students' use of psychotherapeutic services as a function of year in school

Randy Lynn Sandler, University of Pennsylvania


Early dropout from counseling, across settings, is generally considered a negative outcome and a detriment to the delivery of counseling services. However, several of the authors reviewed view the comings and goings of late adolescents in psychotherapy as more normative and appropriate given the developmental status of these clients. This research explored this hypothesis by looking at the counseling behavior of late adolescent college students from a developmental perspective. The subjects were students at a very small and highly selective college located in a suburb of Philadelphia. The research employed a multiple case study design in order to explore the possible relationships between the student's year in school and the developmental issues that were presented in the counseling work, the number of sessions attended, the gender of the students and their counselors and whether they were matched or unmatched, and the manner in which the therapy was terminated. The data suggests that there was a relationship between the student's year in school and the developmental themes that were presented in the counseling work. The developmental themes included separation, identity, intimacy, trust, and autonomy. In general, there were more separation issues presented by the first year students than by the upperclassmen, while there were more identity and intimacy concerns in the sophomores, juniors, and seniors. There was no clear pattern in the number of sessions and the class status of the student, but a content analysis of the sessions revealed a trend for the students with the longest attendance at the counseling center (18+ sessions) and for those with the shortest attendance (1-5 sessions). For all 4 class years, those in the longest group tended to be dealing with separation issues, while those in the shortest group tended not to have separation as their most prevalent issue. The data also suggested that students who were dealing with separation and intimacy issues tended to have more planned terminations, while those with identity issues had more unplanned terminations. Female students tended to stay in counseling longer, regardless of the gender of the counselor.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Developmental psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Sandler, Randy Lynn, "College students' use of psychotherapeutic services as a function of year in school" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829984.