Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Spencer G. Niles

Committee Member

Stephanie Dorais

Committee Member

Daniel Gutierrez


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought many adverse effects to the global community. One effect was decreases in the mental health of college students due to forced isolations. College counseling centers, which had been experiencing long waitlists pre-pandemic, struggled to meet the demand as most had to switch to offering telehealth therapy services. Thus, the field of college counseling made a call for additional clinicians and interventions to support this population during this period of heightened need. The field of positive psychology, made popular in 2000 by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, focuses on how positive emotions and positivity influence our wellbeing. Additionally, positive psychology looks to understand the mechanisms of how positive emotions and positivity can build our resilience against adverse experiences, such as stress and trauma. Given these theories, several positive psychology theories (e.g., Transactional Theory of Stress and Coping, Broaden and Build) serve as the theoretical framework for the present study. One form of promoting positivity is the cultural art of storytelling. Storytelling has existed for centuries and continues to serve as a tool to pass down generational wisdom and to teach. Storytelling has also been found to increase connection between groups and individuals, build resilience, and even protect against negative mental health outcomes, such as suicidal ideation. Considering the isolations brought on by the pandemic, the aim of the present study was to determine whether listening to short stories of individuals overcoming adversity twice per day for four weeks impacted hope, stress, positivity, and trauma symptomatology. Namely, based on existing literature, the author hypothesized that the story intervention would contribute to increased hope and positivity and decreased stress and trauma symptomatology. The current study used a quantitative daily diary design to answer the research questions. After recruiting the sample through multistage cluster sampling and purposive sampling, the participants were randomly assigned to either the treatment group or control group. A final sample of college students (n = 159) completed most of or the entire treatment and were thus analyzed. The treatment group was asked to watch a brief video on StoryCorps, an open-access library of digital stories, then answer a brief questionnaire twice per day; the control group complete the questionnaire with no video at the same schedule. Using growth curve analyses and time series analyses to answer the study’s five research questions, the author found that positivity in the treatment group increased at a higher slope when compared to the slope of the control group. Stationary R2 values indicate a potential relationship between the independent and dependent variables; in this analysis, the scores on the Positivity Scale reported by the treatment (R2 = .30) and control (R2 = .38) groups indicate an adequate relationship in the model. In other words, the model accounted for 30% and 38% of the variance between the treatment and control groups, respectively. The results to the rest of the questions did not yield statistically significant results. The results of each research question are discussed, and implications are described with regard to positive psychology and college counseling. Further, limitations of the present study are presented, and areas warranting future research are highlighted.




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