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18. Impact of the Mood Lifters intervention on internalizing symptoms, perceived stress, and coping skills
Stress related diseases, such as anxiety disorders and heart disease, have been on the rise in the United States and represent a great cost to society. Perceived stress has been implicated as a risk factor for stress related psychopathology (Rusli. Edimansyah, & Naing, 2008). Studies of resilient populations suggest that approach related coping skills are associated with greater reliance to stress (Hassija et al., 2011). Therefore, greater use of approach related coping skills may be associated with improvements in wellbeing when exposed to stress. This study sought to investigate whether participation in Mood Lifters, a novel skills-based group therapy program, was associated with a change in self-reported coping skills, symptoms of anxiety, daily hassles, and perceived stress. Methods: 94 Participants participated in Mood Lifters, a 16 week skills based group therapy program led by professional and peer leaders at the University of Michigan Department of Psychology. Participants were semi-randomized into either active intervention group (n = 65) or waitlist control (n = 28). Participants in the active intervention group completed self-report measures before and after their participation in the 12-week program. This questionnaire included the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), GAD-7 (Spitzer et al., 2006), Daily Hassles Scale (Holm & Holroyd, 1992), and the Brief Cope (Carter, 1997). Waitlist control participants completed the questionnaire at baseline and 12 weeks later and then were invited to participate in the program. General Linear Models were computed using Proc Mixed in SAS9.4 to investigate the association between participating in the intervention and changes in self-reported perceived stress, anxiety symptoms, and coping skills. Results: Participants in the active intervention condition showed significant decreases in self-reported anxiety (b= -2.389, p = 0.0037) and greater use of approach related coping skills (b = 3. 516, p = 0.001) compared to participants in the waitlist control group. Greater exposure to daily hassles was associated with increased anxiety symptoms (b = 0.021, p = 0.002) at both baseline and follow-up. There was no effect on avoidance related coping skills. We observed a trend level effect in which self-reported perceived stress decreased for the active intervention group (b = -2.6330, p = 0.09). Discussion: The results indicate that participation in the Mood Lifters intervention is associated with greater self-reported use of approach related coping skills and reduced symptoms of anxiety. While the intervention had no impact on use of avoidance related coping skills, greater use of approach related coping skills may predict greater resilience to stress. These results support Mood Lifters as an effective intervention for the reducing symptoms of anxiety and improving stress coping skills.