Racial and Ethnic Minority Clients' Utilization of a University Counseling Center: An Archival Study

By Davidson, M. Meghan; Yakushka, Oksana F. et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Racial and Ethnic Minority Clients' Utilization of a University Counseling Center: An Archival Study


Davidson, M. Meghan, Yakushka, Oksana F., Sanford-Martens, Tiffany C., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


The utilization of a university counseling center's services by non-international racial and ethnic minority students was examined via an archival approach. A total of 242 participants were included. Data were examined utilizing ANOVA, bivariate correlation, and chi-square analyses. Results support previous assertions that minority students under-utilize university mental health services.

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The population of the United States is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. In the year 2000, 28.7% of all Americans were racial and ethnic minority individuals (i.e., non-White; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001). Population projections indicate that by the year 2015, racial and ethnic minorities will comprise one-third of the United States population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Furthermore, by the year 2050, that figure will increase to 47.2%, indicating that nearly half of all Americans will be non-White (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000).

American university and college campus populations are reflecting this trend via an increase in the enrollment of students who are ethnically and racially diverse (U.S. Department of Education, 1999). This change in demographics demands the attention of university and college counseling professionals and administrators because the type of individuals who will come for counseling may in turn also change. Additionally, the appropriate ways in which professionals counsel may also need to evolve. If not attended to, it seems unlikely that the counseling needs of racial and ethnic minority students will be adequately addressed on university and college campuses.

Researchers in the counseling fields have turned their attention to these demands. Help-seeking attitudes and behaviors of such traditionally under-served populations as racial and ethnic minorities have received growing recognition in the counseling literature (e.g., Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1998; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 2001). It is imperative for university and college counseling center staff to better understand and attend to the needs of all individuals who seek counseling, particularly students who belong to traditionally under-served and under-represented populations. Regardless of the population's diversification, people of all races and ethnicities deserve to have their needs met in appropriate ways.

Research has indicated that minority students who could potentially benefit from the services provided at a university or college counseling center may face certain barriers. For example, Leong, Wagner, and Tara (1995) highlighted that the help-seeking attitudes of racial and ethnic minority individuals in the United States are connected to the sociopolitical reality that most minority individuals encounter in this country. That is, racial and ethnic minority help-seeking behavior is influenced by factors such as racism, discrimination, social class, and a bias toward individualistic orientation. Although members of these groups are believed to be at greater risk for psychological problems due to stressors such as racism, prejudice, lower socioeconomic status, undereducation, and acculturation, they also are known to under-utilize counseling services (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1993; Leong et al., 1995). Brinson and Kottler (1995) suggested that the under-utilization of counseling centers' mental health services by racial and ethnic minority students is influenced by two factors. The first factor is the incongruence between the dominant and minority worldviews toward the definition of mental health. The second factor is the impact of minority individuals' ethnic identity development on their help-seeking behaviors. In a survey of 297 university students from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, Atkinson, Jennings, and Liongson (1990) discovered that the perceived unavailability of culturally similar or sensitive counselors was a primary reason for racial and ethnic minority students not seeking counseling center help. …

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