Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Predictors of Attitudes toward Seeking Counseling among International Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Predictors of Attitudes toward Seeking Counseling among International Students

Article excerpt

This study investigated predictors of international students' attitudes toward seeking counseling. One hundred twenty-one international students responded to mailed questionnaires. Results indicate that being female, having greater openness to emotions, and having had prior counseling experience were significant predictors of more open attitudes toward seeking counseling.

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The U.S. Department of Education reported in 1997 that there were approximately 500,000 international students enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States and that this number is increasing each year. Studying in the United States poses many challenges for international students: adjusting to a new university system, establishing an identity in an unfamiliar culture, communicating in a foreign language, dealing with financial worries, being uprooted from familiar social support systems, experiencing homesickness, and feeling lonely (Arthur, 1997; Brinson & Kottler, 1995; Das, Chow, & Rutherford, 1986; Pedersen, 1991). These students have inadequate informal social support and thus feel socially isolated (Leong & Sedlacek, 1986). Wehrly (1986) asserted that the stress that students experience in the first 6 months of study in a foreign country often reaches crisis level. Thus, it is important that institutions of higher education provide international students with adequate counseling support.

Despite their high need for support, international students have been reported as reluctant to seek counseling services (Brinson & Kottler, 1995; Dadfar & Friedlander, 1982; Pedersen, 1991). In a 1998 study, Komiya, Good, and Sherrod hypothesized that college students' closed attitudes toward experiencing their emotions would cause them to be reluctant to seek counseling and that college students with greater psychological distress would thus have more incentive and would be more willing to seek counseling. The findings supported these hypotheses. Results also indicated that female students had more open attitudes toward seeking counseling than did male respondents.

Results of a related study indicated that U.S. students were more likely to seek counseling than were international students living in the United States (Dadfar & Friedlander, 1982). Length of stay in the United States by the international student was included as a predictor variable in this study. The results suggest that international students who have lived in the United States longest may have positive attitudes toward seeking counseling in proportion to their greater degree of acculturation. Results also suggest that international students who had previously experienced counseling would possess more open attitudes toward seeking counseling in the future.

We can begin to tailor counseling to meet the needs of these students only through a better understanding of the variables that prove to be a barrier for international students in seeking services. To improve mental health professionals' efforts at reducing barriers for international students who may need counseling, further investigation of their attitudes toward seeking help through counseling are needed.

The present study is a partial replication of earlier studies among a population of international students enrolled in higher education in the United States. Hypotheses of this study assert that emotional openness, distress level, sex, length of stay in the United States, and prior experience with counseling will uniquely predict international students' attitudes toward seeking counseling.

Method

Participants

Questionnaire packets were mailed to 293 international students enrolled in a midsize southern public university. The students' names and addresses were obtained from the most comprehensive mailing list of international students at that university. In addition, 18 international students recruited from an English course at the institution also participated in the study. …

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