Less than one fifth of college students who struggle with mental health issues ever seek help. “Because reasons for the discrepancy between those who might benefit from mental health services and those who seek it can be numerous (e.g., effect of time, natural process of healing, and relief provided by a social network), scholars have sought to identify barriers to seeking treatment,” said Stefania Aigisdottir of Ball State University, and lead author of a new study examining the reasons why young adults avoid therapy. “The search for barriers is grounded in the notion that the decision to seek MHC (mental healthcare) is influenced by two opposing forces: approach factors (e.g., positive counseling attitudes, experience of distress) and avoidance factors (e.g., fear of and negative attitudes to treatment).” Another main reason people refuse to reach out for help is because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. “Public stigma refers to the negative social labels attached to persons who seek mental health services,” added Aigisdottir.
Aigisdottir and her colleagues interviewed 334 college students for their study. They asked them about their attitude toward counseling, the fears associated with therapy, and their willingness to get treatment. The students were enrolled in an educational intake session or a traditional intake session. The study revealed that the male students who were in the educational session showed more receptivity toward treatment, especially if they had never been in therapy before. Additionally, negative attitude was diminished in these men. Aigisdottir said, “It therefore appears that discussing fears and common negative attitudes about counseling in the first session may benefit men seeking counseling for the first time.” She added, “Our results suggest that it is important to discuss and normalize novice men’s concerns about how seeking counseling may affect their image and how the stigma attached to seeking counseling may affect them. This type of intervention in the first session may be particularly helpful for men who are not self-referred and do not appear very invested in the process.”
Aigisdóttir, Stefania, Michael P. O’Heron, Joel M. Hartong, Sarah A. Haynes, and Miranda K. Linville. “Enhancing Attitudes and Reducing Fears about Mental Health Counseling: An Analogue Study.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling 33.4 (2011): 327-46. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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