Interpersonal Counseling for College Students: Pilot Feasibility and Acceptability Study

Alexandra K. Rafaeli, Eran Bar-Kalifa, Helen Verdeli, Leslie Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: University counseling centers struggle to meet the growing demand for mental health treatment by students in distress. More acutely distressed students typically receive priority, whereas those with mild to moderate depression often face longer wait times and fewer available therapy sessions. For this reason, interpersonal counseling for college students (IPC-C) was created as a brief manualized psychotherapy, suitable for students with mild to moderate depression, that maintains the core components of interpersonal counseling and integrates components from interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents and other developmentally appropriate techniques. This article describes a pilot trial of IPC-C. Methods: IPC-C is delivered in three to six psychotherapy sessions focused on alleviating depressive symptoms and increasing social support. Ten participants from two university counseling centers were recruited to receive IPC-C. The inclusion criterion was a Patient Health Questionnaire- 9 (PHQ-9) score of 5-14, indicating mild to moderate depression. Participants completed the PHQ-9 at each session, the College Adjustment Test at baseline and termination, and the IPC Satisfaction Scale at termination. Results: Nine of the 10 participants completed the study, attending an average of five therapy sessions each. Participants agreed that the number of sessions was appropriate and indicated satisfaction with the IPC-C intervention. Participants exhibited significantly reduced depression severity (Cohen's d=2.45) and significantly improved college adjustment (d=0.92). Conclusions: In this pilot trial, IPC-C was found to be a feasible and acceptable intervention for university-based treatment of young adults with mild to moderate depressive symptoms. IPC-C holds promise as a potentially effective intervention for this population and warrants further study in a randomized trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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