A comparison of international and American students with respect to emotional distress and adjustment to college within a counseling center population

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Margaret Crosbie-Burnett - Committee Chair


Some American and international students experience emotional distress adjusting to college life. This occurs in the context of increased degrees of psychological distress being observed at college campus counseling centers nationwide. This study explored how international students compare to out-of-state American students with respect to both level of emotional distress and adjustment to college at presentation for initial clinical intake interview. Results of this study indicated that there were few differences between international and American students within this clinical sample of college counseling center clients. International students reported more problems related to adjustment to college and loneliness and homesickness than American students. However, no differences in terms of emotional difficulty as evidenced by degree of distress, severity of problems, or student self-reported grade point average (GPA) were found. The clinical population of students who received higher clinician ratings of degree of distress reported higher grade point averages than University of Miami students at large. Respondent's age was negatively correlated with self-reported grade point average (GPA) and positively correlated with self-reported severity of problems. The results of this study have implications for counseling center clinicians and university administrators. Programs such as the "buddy system" might be implemented between out-of-state American and international student freshmen and upperclassmen. Clinical interventions such as support groups could be initiated by counseling center staff to provide support to high achieving students and older students who often have dual responsibilities, such as full-time jobs and families. University administrators should also facilitate building relationships among students, professors, and advisors which can help students feel more connected not only to the greater university community, but also to members of the local community to whom they can turn for advice and support.


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural; Education, Guidance and Counseling; Education, Educational Psychology; Psychology, Clinical

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