A Thirteen-Year Comparison in Patterns of Attitudes toward Counseling

Article excerpt

Professionals in the helping fields are understandably intrigued with the way their services are perceived by potential clients and which attitudes remain relatively constant. These concerns can be related to professional identity issues as well as to intervention strategies.

More specifically, the general area of counseling preferences has been investigated from different perspectives: characteristics of those who might or might not seek counseling (e.g., Cook, 1984; Greenly & Mechanic, 1976; Siegman, 1974; Goodman, Sewell & Jampol, 1984; Voit, 1982; Chamow, 1978; Robertson, 1989; Kemp, 1989; Shack-Finger, 1988; Gray, 1987; Bushway, 1985; Cooperman, 1983; Neal, 1983); preferences for types of helpers (e.g., Cook, 1984; Getsinger & Garfield, 1976; Gelso & Karl, 1974; Smith, 1974; Corwin, 1973; Sharpley, 1986; Webb & Spears, 1986; Butterfield, 1989; Kemp, 1989; Bologub, 1986; Ricketts, 1988); types of client problems (e.g., Cook, 1984; Corwin, 1973); responsibilities of the professional helper (e.g., Hagedorn, 1977; Dreman & Dolev, 1976); and attitude toward theoretical orientation of the professional (e.g., Smith, 1974; Healey, 1978). Each of these areas are discussed here.

A survey was conducted in 1976 on a relatively homogeneous group of 117 college students enrolled in sophomore-junior level classes in a school of community services in a Mid-Atlantic university. Thirteen years later the same survey was administered to a similarly homogeneous group of 143 college students at the same school. In both samples, gender was approximately equal. Specific areas of the survey form and the results will follow, along with the findings of related investigations.

SEEKING COUNSELING

The issue of the likelihood of seeking help when one is experiencing an upsetting personal problem has been studied by a number of researchers, especially those concerned with college populations. Cook (1984) found that female college students had greater potential interest in counseling than did males. An investigation by Greenley and Mechanic (1976) discovered that being female affected generalized help-seeking behaviors of college students. Shack-Finger (1988) found that female college students had more positive attitudes toward help-seeking behavior, yet the findings showed no significant sex differences in actual help-seeking behavior. A study by Cooperman (1983) with college students indicated that being female, as well as having more limited interpersonal contacts and having positive impressions of therapy were related to positive attitudes toward seeking psychological help. Neal's (1983) findings revealed that females were relatively more aware of counseling services and were proportionately greater users of these services. Voit (1982) found that college students with female sex-role identity were more likely to seek counseling. Robertson (1989) found that predictions of positive attitudes toward traditional counseling included higher feminine scores on a gender role measure and higher social scores on a personality measure, whereas negative attitudes were related to high scores on various masculinity measures. A study by Kemp (1989) noted different predictions for seeking help by male and female college students. In a different vein, Chamow (1978) provided a three-situational framework for conceptualizing when most men seem to become involved in individual therapy.

Some studies have investigated predictions based on other than gender differences in seeking help. Gray (1987) identified 16 significant variables related to help-seeking behavior in college students, whereas Siegman (1974) found self-acceptance to be the only variable in the California Psychological Inventory that was significant for seekers and nonseekers. Goodmana, Sewell, & Jampol (1984) studied stresses and social supports for college students and concluded that given equal numbers of stressful events, the likelihood of seeking counseling increases as social supports decrease. …