University Students Who Overcame Learned Helplessness: What Helped or Hindered?




Learned helplessness in an academic environment often affects educational performance and mental health in adverse ways (Ciarrochi et al., 2007; Hu et al., 2015). Using a modified version of the Enhanced Critical Incident Technique, this study aimed to develop a better understanding of what helps or hinders university students in overcoming learned helplessness. Analysis generated 14 categories of helping incidents and seven categories of hindering incidents, most of which were consistent with previous research. This study identified the category Being in the Spotlight, which had not been noted at all in past research. Examination of the results contributes information about reported interactions between hindering incidents and the importance of autonomy in overcoming learned helplessness, topics neglected or understudied in past research on learned helplessness in university students. Overall, the results of this study provide additional direction for counsellors working with university students who experience learned helplessness and highlight the need for further research to understand in more detail the helping and hindering factors outlined in this study.

Author Biographies

Syler Hayes, University of British Columbia

Syler Hayes is currently completing his PhD in counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia. He is also a registered clinical counsellor. His main research interests include post-secondary students’ mental health, addictions, group psychotherapy, cross-cultural counselling, and theories of psychotherapy.

Daniele Doucet, University of Calgary

Daniele Doucet is a psychologist in private practice and is completing her PhD in counselling psychology at the University of Calgary. Her main research interests are in the areas of romantic partnerships, non-monogamy, gender diversity, and issues relevant to LGBTQIA+ communities.

Robinder P. Bedi, University of British Columbia

Robinder (Rob) P. Bedi is an associate professor of counselling psychology in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. His research interests include professional issues in Canadian counselling psychology, counselling Punjabi and Sikh individuals, and conceptualizing counselling and psychotherapy as Western cultural healing practices. He is also a registered psychologist in British Columbia and maintains a small independent counselling and consulting practice.




How to Cite

Hayes, S., Doucet, D., & Bedi, R. P. (2021). University Students Who Overcame Learned Helplessness: What Helped or Hindered?. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 55(3), 334–362.



Articles/ Articles