The impact of a self-development coaching programme on medical and dental students’ psychological health and academic performance: A randomised controlled trial

Aboalshamat, Khalid, Hou, Xiang-Yu, & Strodl, Esben (2015) The impact of a self-development coaching programme on medical and dental students’ psychological health and academic performance: A randomised controlled trial. BMC Medical Education, 15(134).

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Psychological distress is well-documented worldwide among medical and dental students. Few studies have assessed the impact of self-development coaching programs on the students’ psychological health. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of a self-development coaching programme on the psychological health and academic performance of preclinical medical and dental students at Umm Al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia.


Four-hundred and twenty-two participants (n = 422, 20–22 years) fulfilled the study requirements and were invited into a parallel-randomised controlled trial that was partially blinded. Participants were stratified by faculty, gender, and academic year, and then randomised. A total of 156 students participated in the intervention group (IG) and 163 students participated in the control group (CG). The IG received the selfdevelopment programme, involving skills and strategies aimed to improve students’ psychological health and academic performance, through a two-day workshop. Meanwhile, the CG attended an active placebo programme focussing on theoretical information that was delivered through a five-hour workshop. Both programmes were conducted by the same presenter during Week 1 of the second semester of the 2012–2013 academic year. Data were gathered immediately before (T1), one week after (T2) and five weeks (T3) after the intervention. Psychological health was measured using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21), the General Self-Efficacy (GSE), and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). Academic performance was measured using students’ academic weighted grades (WG). Student cognitive and emotional perceptions of the intervention were measured using the Credibility/Expectancy Questionnaire (CEQ).


Data from 317 students, who completed the follow ups, were analysed across the three time periods (IG, n = 155; CG, n = 162). The baseline variables and demographic data of the IG and CG were not significantly different. The IG showed short-term significant reductions in depression and anxiety in compared to CG from T1 to T2. The short-term changes in stress, GSE and SWLS of the IG were not significantly different from those of the CG. While both groups showed a significant change on most of the psychological variables from T1 to T3, no significant differences were found between the groups in this period. In addition, no significant difference was found in WG between the IG and CG after the intervention. No harms relevant to the intervention were reported.


The investigated self-development coaching programme showed only a short-term improvement on depression and anxiety compared with an active control. There was no effect of the intervention on academic performance.

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ID Code: 86694
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Randomised Control Trial, self-development, coaching, university students, mental health, psychological health, HERN
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-015-0412-4
ISSN: 1472-6920
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Aboalshamat et al.
Copyright Statement: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Deposited On: 20 Aug 2015 05:55
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:48

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