Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Scriven


Rates of depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and low self-esteem appear to be growing on college campuses. Determining how best to help distressed collegians is an important public health concern, as these individuals appear to be at significant risk for further deterioration, disrupted quality of life, and impaired ability to succeed in college. This study compared the effects of (a) six sessions of cognitive therapy (CT; training in two cognitive modification strategies—building positive self-thoughts and disputing negative self-thoughts) to (b) six sessions of non-directive, supportive therapy (ST). Fifty-three students from a large mid-western university reporting low self-esteem and significant levels of distress were randomly assigned to six 1-hour, weekly therapy sessions of either CT or ST. Measures of distress, depression, self-esteem, and positive and negative self-thoughts were taken at pre-, mid-, and post-treatment and at 1- and 3-month follow-up. Results indicated that while improvements were seen in both conditions by post-treatment, CT produced quicker, larger results. These results provide evidence for building fluency with positive self-thoughts, a relatively new cognitive technique, and have important implications for a population that may especially benefit from active, brief treatments.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access