Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work

Doctoral Project


Kurt M. Gehlert; Myrla Seibold


Depression continues to be one of the most common presenting issues in college counseling centers. Positive psychology interventions focus on cultivating positive feelings, behaviors, and cognitions (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009) and studies show these interventions are effective in enhancing well-being and decreasing depression. Positive psychology has become increasingly popular since it was first described in 1998, though quantitative studies far outnumber qualitative studies. The purpose of this study was to explore participants’ experiences in a positive psychology group for college students with depression. This research generated a grounded theory toward understanding changes in depression and positive emotions experienced by group participants. Semi-structured interviews were completed with six student participants. The interviews were analyzed using a grounded theory methodology, borrowing components of consensual qualitative research. Six categories emerged from the data. Embedded within these categories were 14 themes and 10 subthemes. The categories revealed information about if and to what extent changes in feelings of depression and positive emotions were experienced. The results also identified within-group and outside-group factors of importance in terms of how these changes occurred. The categories were: Course of Depression, Positivity, Group Processes and Procedures, Joining Group, Outside-Group Challenges, and Culture. Similar to quantitative studies on positive psychology interventions, this research found group participants experienced decreased feelings of depression and increased feelings of positive emotions. The nuances of these results are illuminated by participants’ quotes. Therapists planning to run similar positive psychology groups will find the clinical implications noted to be relevant to their future work. Ethical and diversity considerations, limitations, and implications for future research are also discussed.


college counseling, depression, positivity

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.