Penn Resilience Training for College Students

Placement on the Continuum of Evidence Promising Download icon Download PDF
Target Population: 
Anxiety, Communication, Depression, Emotional Competency, Life Stress, Resilience, Social Competency
Target Audience 

This program is for first-year college students who are at risk for depression.


Penn Resilience Training for College Students, a cognitive-behavioral depression prevention program, is designed to promote positive coping skills for young adults by helping them to change negative and automatic thinking patterns and by teaching adaptive behaviors, such as stress management strategies and positive communication techniques.


A randomized trial revealed that, over a 3-year, follow-up period, intervention participants experienced significantly fewer moderate depressive episodes and episodes of generalized anxiety disorder compared to the control group; however, there was no difference for severe depressive episodes, which were less common in both groups.  Additionally, intervention participants reported significantly fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety over the follow-up period and more positive attitudes and interpretations of events.  In a second study, control group participants reported more than twice as many health care visits due to illness over a follow-up period that was a minimum of 6 months (i.e., it varied for different cohorts).  This suggests the intervention may have an impact on physical health; however, this result must be interpreted with caution as there was no pretest.


A variety of individuals can facilitate this program, such as school personnel, mental health professionals, or graduate students in psychology.  Two facilitators, such as a cognitive therapist and a graduate student, present this program to a group of 10 to 12 students.  The following topics are discussed:

  • Understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors;
  • Recognize automatic negative thoughts and their underlying beliefs;
  • Consider the evidence to evaluate the negative thoughts and beliefs;
  • Replace negative thoughts with more helpful interpretations and beliefs (e.g., use thought stopping and distraction techniques and generate alternative thoughts);
  • Use behavioral strategies, such as breaking tasks into smaller steps and applying time management, anti-procrastination, problem-solving, and assertiveness techniques;
  • Learn interpersonal skills, such as active listening, taking another's perspective, and controlling emotions;
  • Practice stress management techniques (e.g., relaxation training); and
  • Apply these coping skills to real-life situations.

This intervention includes a detailed manual and participant notebooks, presentations, role-playing, games, activities, group discussion, and homework reviews.

Previous Use 

Beyond the evaluation of this program, which involved over 400 students at the University of Pennsylvania, it is unknown to what extent the program has been used.


Training is required for facilitators and typically lasts 1 to 8 days.  The cost of training varies as training programs are customized for each organization.  For more information, please use details in the Contact section and contact the developers.


Considerations for implementing this program include recruiting facilitators to lead intervention groups; acquiring space to hold sessions; obtaining university administrative buy-in; and understanding that the program has been primarily used in a research context and, therefore, outcomes may not generalize to a non-research context.

The Clearinghouse can help address these considerations. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


If you are interested in implementing Penn Resilience Training for College Students, the Clearinghouse is interested in helping you! Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


This intervention consists of 8-weekly, 2-hour meetings and homework assignments.


Program implementation costs vary with the needs of the implementing organization.  Please contact the developer for information using details in the Contact section.

Evaluation Plan 

To move the Penn Resilience Training for College Students program to the Effective category on the Clearinghouse Continuum of Evidence at least one external evaluation must be conducted that demonstrates sustained, positive outcomes. This study must be conducted independently of the program developer.

The Clearinghouse can help you develop an evaluation plan to ensure the program components are meeting your goals. Please call 1-877-382-9185 or email


Contact the Clearinghouse with any questions regarding this program.
Phone: 1-877-382-9185 Email:

You may also contact Peter Schulman by mail University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Solomon Labs, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6241, email, phone 1-215-898-2748, or visit

Source; Seligman, Schulman, DeRubeis, and Hollon (1999); Buchanan, Gardenswartz, and Seligman (1999); and personal communication with P. Schulman (2014).

References - Used For Placement 

Buchanan, G. M., Gardenswartz, C. A. R., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1999). Physical health following a cognitive-behavioral intervention. Prevention & Treatment, 2.

Seligman, M. E. P., Schulman, P., DeRubeis, R. J., & Hollon, S. D. (1999). The prevention of depression and anxiety. Prevention & Treatment, 2.

Seligman, M. E. P., Schulman, P., & Tryon, A. M. (2007). Group prevention of depression and anxiety symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 1111-1126.

*Resources and associated costs reflect those identified at the time of fact sheet publication.