Occasionally, obstacles to receiving therapy may exist, some real and others perceived. For individuals living in rural areas or with financial limitations, therapy may be relatively inaccessible. But for college students, mental health services usually are readily available and affordable. However, too many students who need therapy never receive it. When this happens, they become more vulnerable to serious emotional, professional, and academic problems. Understanding why students refuse to get treatment could help in the formation of educational outreach programs that might ultimately encourage more students in need to seek help. In an effort to examine the conditions that persuade or dissuade college students from getting mental health services, Suk Kyung Nam, an assistant professor of psychology at Kyungnam University in Korea, recently conducted a meta-analysis of 19 separate studies on the Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale.
After examining the studies, Nam found that individual factors influenced therapy seeking either negatively or positively. Among the positive influences, Nam discovered that the anticipated benefit of therapy was the strongest predictor of help-seeking behaviors. This was followed closely by self-disclosure. Taken together, individuals who perceived they would be helped by treatment, and were willing to share their problems with a counselor or group, were the most likely to seek services. In contrast, individuals who had low levels of emotional support and disclosure were unlikely to look for help. The negative stigma often associated with therapy also dissuaded many of the participants from getting the treatment they needed. Nam said: “Most individuals perceive that they are socially unacceptable if they seek counseling, which can lead to reduced self-esteem or self-worth.” The findings from this analysis suggest that universities and counselors use methods to decrease stigma and raise awareness of the potential benefits of therapy in order to persuade more students in need to seek mental health services for their emotional distress.
Nam, S. K., Choi, S. I., Lee, J. H., Lee, M. K., Kim, A R., Lee, S. M. (2012). Psychological factors in college students’ attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help: a meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029562
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