Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Expectations among Students in an Opportunity Program: Dispositional and Cultural Influences

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Expectations among Students in an Opportunity Program: Dispositional and Cultural Influences

Article excerpt

Opportunity programs in colleges across the United States provide financial, academic, and personal support to students from financially disadvantaged and historically underrepresented backgrounds. Many students who participate in such programs are members of racial and ethnic minority groups and are either the first in their family or among a small group in their community to pursue higher education. Students in opportunity programs and students from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds in general face unique stressors as they transition to college (Lippincott & German, 2007). Although some students adapt and cope more easily, others view themselves and their capabilities in ways that interfere with personal adjustment and academic success. Despite the additional pressures with which students from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds are often challenged and even though counseling services on many campuses are accessible and designed to ease such pressures (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000), research conducted by Kearney, Draper, and Baron (2005) with a large sample of students from 40 universities nationwide found that students from African American and Latino backgrounds use such services with less frequency than do Caucasian students.

Counseling psychologists have theorized that client expectations play a considerable role in the decision to enter a counseling relationship (H. E. A. Tinsley, Bowman, & Barich, 1993). Research has also suggested that counseling expectations influence client satisfaction (Heilbrun, 1972), treatment effectiveness (Longo, Lent, & Brown, 1992; Watkins & Terrell, 1988), and use of services after initial intake (Gunzburger, Henggeler, & Watson, 1985). Although several studies have indicated that individual characteristics are related to specific expectations for counseling (e.g., Foon, 1986; Nowicki & Duke, 1978), this past research was conducted primarily with individuals from Caucasian backgrounds. Studies that have investigated the counseling expectations of students from racial and ethnic minority background have yet to focus on within-group differences in expectations, based on psychological and cultural variables, that may play a role in mental health service use (Rickwood & Braithwaite, 1994). The current study was conducted with the hope that a close look at the counseling expectations of African American and Hispanic students who participated in an opportunity program and the students' view of themselves and their environment would provide a sense of how to provide more effective mental health support services when needed.

Stressors Unique to Racial and Ethnic Minority Students

All students who begin college have to adjust to new schedules, academic requirements, greater independence, and the need to choose a potential career path. Students from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, especially those who are eligible for and participate in opportunity programs, often face additional stressors such as family financial responsibilities (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000; Phinney, Dennis, & Osorio, 2006) and being academically underprepared (Miller, Ozturk, & Chavez, 2005). Attending predominantly Caucasian universities can also trigger feelings of marginalization and social isolation (Gloria & Castellanos, 2003), which may predict poor academic outcomes (Saldana, 1994) and nonpersistence decisions for these students (Castillo et al., 2006; Gloria, Castellanos, Lopez, & Rosales, 2005). Stress has been linked to mental health problems (Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend, 1974), and race-related stress in particular has been linked to difficulties in personal adjustment for racial and ethnic minority students (Neville, Heppner, Ji, & Thye, 2004).

What Interferes With Coping Effectively With Stress?

Psychological Characteristics

Certain dispositional variables seem to play a role in how stressful events and circumstances are experienced. …

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