Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. In this retrospective study, postsecondary students demonstrated significant increases in grade point average (GPA) following psychological counselling.

2. Increases in GPA were associated with decreases in psychological distress but not decreases in academic distress.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Students entering postsecondary education may experience increased distress due to distance from their support system, significant changes to their environment and responsibilities, as well as academic pressures. Accordingly, most postsecondary institutions have counselling resources available for their students. Psychological support may decrease distress and increase the academic capacity of postsecondary students.

The present retrospective chart review evaluated the counseling records of students attending postsecondary institutions as well as their grade point average (GPA) before and after at least two counselling sessions. Counselling sessions were provided by either staff counsellors, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Inclusion criteria for participants were postsecondary students who attended institutional counselling between the years of 2014 and 2018. Students were excluded if psychological and academic distress scores were not available. Study outcomes assessed the association between student academic distress, psychological distress, and GPA pre- and post-intervention.

A total of 1,231 participants treated by 49 counsellors were included in the analysis. Over half of the participants identified as women (65%) and most students included were sophomores (21.6%). Following counselling, a significant increase in GPA was recorded which continued to increase in the semesters following intervention. Additionally, students who had significant decreases in psychological distress were more likely to improve their GPA. Interestingly, decreases in academic distress were not associated with GPA improvements. However, the present study was limited in that reasons for seeking counselling were not analyzed, heterogeneity in counselor training was high, and no subgroup analysis was performed based on sociodemographic factors. Overall, psychological counselling may not only improve the mental wellbeing of postsecondary students, but also their academic performance.

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