Transition distress: a psychological process

Journal article

Hughes, Gareth 2016. Transition distress: a psychological process. University & College Counselling.
AuthorsHughes, Gareth

It will come as no surprise to anybody working within higher education, that many students find the transition into university emotionally and psychologically difficult. We clearly understand that students going through transition can experience psychological distress, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, a reduction in self-esteem and isolation.1–5 Many students describe a loss of feelings of control, and doubts about whether or not to stay at their new university. This is particularly concerning for universities, as research has identified that successful transition is a key element in determining retention and future student success.6–10 While most of us probably recognise all of this, there is often less understanding about why some students find transition so difficult, and more importantly, what we can do about it. In the last few years, I and my colleagues in Student Wellbeing at the University of Derby have been researching student transition in order to develop better interventions to support new students.
Our research, and the research of many others in the field, suggests that we may need to rethink some of the ways in which we approach transition, if we want to provide our students with the most effective support. In this article, I briefly describe some of our work so far (some of which has been published and presented elsewhere), and propose a new model of transition. I do this with one important caveat. As George Box said: ‘All models are wrong, but some models are useful.’11 I don’t pretend that this model encapsulates every single student’s experience but I hope it may provide a useful way of thinking about what our students may be experiencing, how we can target our support and how this learning can be used to good effect in the therapy room.

KeywordsTransition; student mental health; student counselling
JournalUniversity & College Counselling
Web address (URL)
Publication dates01 Sep 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Sep 2021, 12:05
Accepted01 Jun 2016

This interview first appeared in the September 2016 issue of University & College Counselling, published by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy. 2021©’ The pdf is released for deposit in the above-named repository only and subject to its deposit being on a not-for-profit basis.

ContributorsUniversity of Derby
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