College Counseling Center Treatment Outcomes: A Comparison of Student Athletes and General Population Students
Background: Several college students experience psychological distress and access college counseling center services every year. A subgroup of this population, collegiate student-athletes, experience unique stressors and protective factors but are less likely to engage in those same services. Mental health research on this subpopulation is still sparse and yields mixed findings, particularly treatment outcome research. Objective: This study aimed to compare the treatment outcomes of student-athletes and general population students. Method: Participants were 10,566 college students (ages 18-26) from 139 universities in the United States that obtained routine psychological treatment at their college counseling center. Approximately 55% of the sample identified as female, 44% as male, and less than 1% identified as transgender or self-specified. The ethnicity of the sample was approximately 76% White, 10% African American/Black, 5% Hispanic/Latino, 3% Asian/Asian American, 4% Multiracial, 1% Self-identified, <1% American Indian/Alaska Native, and <1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The measures used for this study were the Standardized Data Set (SDS) and the Counseling Center Assessment of Psychological Symptoms (CCAPS-62). Differences in the number of sessions attended, initial distress at intake, and change in symptoms were calculated between the two groups along eight domains of distress. Results: 8% of the sample identified as student-athletes. There are no differences in the number of sessions attended. Student-athletes entered treatment self-reporting lower levels of distress on all eight domains of the CCAPS-62. Student-athletes reported greater symptom improvement in five of the eight domains of the CCAPS-62 and no differences in the other three. There were no differences between the two groups in the proportion of participants that recovered, reliably improved, did not change, or deteriorated across treatment. Conclusions: Although student-athletes are accessing psychological treatment less frequently, they may be able to experience the same or better outcomes than their general population peers tend to when they do.