When the desire for Perfection gets in the way of progress: Helping students let go of Perfectionism

Dr Emma Kerr1

1University Of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia


Perfectionism can be a major barrier to student’s academic success, and can have a significant impact on student’s emotional wellbeing. Perfectionism can negatively impact on performance directly via increased anxiety and procrastination (Capan, 2010; Eum & Rice, 2011), as well as indirectly as a result of increased risk of mental health concerns such as Depression, suicidal ideation, and Eating Disorders (Egan, Wade & Shafran, 2011; Hamilton & Schweitzer, 2000).

This presentation will provide an overview of a workshop series for students on how to overcome Perfectionism. The author has developed a four-session group-based program based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, with the aim of improving student’s academic performance and emotional wellbeing, improving the efficiency of service provision within UON Counselling, and providing proactive intervention to students not currently engaged with Counselling to reduce risk of problems developing. The authors will outline the content of the workshops, discuss engagement and promotion strategies, the challenges and successes of the program and provide qualitative data on student outcomes.


Capan, B.E. (2010). Relationship among perfectionism, academic procrastination and life satisfaction of university students. Procedia: Social and Behavioural Sciences, 5, 1665-1671. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.342

Egan, S.J., Wade, T.D., Shafran, R. (2011). Perfectionism as a trans diagnostic process: A clinical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(2), 203-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.04.009
Eum, K., Rice, K. (2011). Test anxiety, perfectionism, goal orientation, and academic performance. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 24, 167-178. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2010.488723
Hamilton, T. K., Schweitzer, R. D. (2000). The cost of being perfect: Perfectionism and suicide ideation in university students. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34, 829-835.


Emma Kerr is a Clinical Psychologist who works as a Student Counsellor and Online Counsellor at University of Newcastle. Prior to working at UON, Emma has worked in Community Mental Health and Private inpatient settings. She has completed a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from University of Sydney. Emma is passionate about supporting students to let go of Perfectionism and develop more compassionate ways of thinking and behaving.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education. We are focused on: The quality of the student experience Supporting and empowering students to achieve their educational and life goals Enhancing student wellbeing and development Improving student success and persistence Providing outreach to students at-risk Raising institutional student retention rates For more information, please visit the ANZSSA website at anzssa.com.

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