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A. Purpose Mental health counseling is an effective treatment for mental health concerns (APA, 2012), though psychological barriers prevent people from seeking out counseling when distressed (Corrigan, 2004). Self-stigma, or an individual’s fear that seeking help would lead to diminished self-worth, is one commonly cited psychological barrier leading to lower help-seeking intent (Lannin et. al. 2015). One untested barrier is whether individuals believe they would be able to cope with potential stress created by attending and participating in counseling (cf. stress appraisal theory; Peacock & Wong, 1990). Therefore, this study attempts to address this gap in the literature by testing whether stress appraisals predict help-seeking intentions above and beyond the previously identified barrier of self-stigma.B. Methods Participants (N = 215; Age, M = 19.58, SD = 1.85; Ethnicity, White = 71.3%, African American/Black = 10.2%, Multiracial = 7.9%, Hispanic/Latinx = 6.9%, Asian/Asian American = 3.7%; Sex, Female = 72.2%, Male = 27.3%) completed in-person assessments of previous counseling experience, distress (Kessler et al., 2002), self-stigma of seeking psychological help (Vogel et al., 2006), and an adapted stress appraisal measure (SAM; Peacock & Wong, 1990) that assessed how stressful the prospect of utilizing counseling would be via 5 four-item appraisal subscales (perceptions of self-controllability, centrality, threat, stress, and challenge).C. Results A multiple regression predicting intentions to seek counseling was conducted with previous counseling experience entered in step one, self-stigma entered in step two, and the five subscales of the stress appraisal measure entered in step three. Whereas distress and previous counseling accounted for 16% of the variance in intent to seek counseling, including self-stigma in step two significantly increased the amount of variance explained by 18% (R 2 = 0.34, p < .001), and including counseling stress-appraisals in step three significantly increased the amount of variance explained by 21% (R 2 = 0.55, p < .001), with stress-appraisals of challenge (β = .30, p < .001) and self-control (β = .21, p = .004) being significant predictors.D. Conclusions While beliefs about stigma are salient in the help-seeking process, the present study suggests that regarding counseling as a manageable challenge rather than a stressor is a predictor of help seeking intentions as well. Additionally, believing that one appraises counseling as an environment where they can be successful may bolster help-seeking intentions, suggesting that this could be an important area to focus on in outreach programming in the future.
Namboodiri, Rachael, "How Stressful will Counseling Be? Appraisals of Control and Challenge Predict Help-seeking Intentions" (2020). Psychology. 5.