Adolescent Males' View on the Use of Mental Health Counseling Services
Smith, Jeffrey M., Adolescence
Understanding the adolescent viewpoint on mental health counseling is important for theory development and service enhancement. The few studies that have been conducted help to illuminate the topic. In one study, a group of college males presented their viewpoints on perceived health needs, barriers to help-seeking, and the adoption of healthier lifestyles (Davies, McCrea, Frank, Dochnahl, Pickering, Harris, Zakrzewski, & Wilson, 2000). It was found that these college males knew they had health needs, yet took no action. Additionally, their socialization to be independent and to conceal vulnerability was cited as a major barrier. In other research, male and female college students were assessed regarding likelihood of seeking counseling, type of helper, type of problem, responsibility for problem solution, and type of counseling approach (Rule & Gandy, 1994). An important finding was that males in 1989 were less likely than those in 1976 to seek counseling for problems related to work or school The males seemed to have shifted toward a more do-it-yourself perspective.
In a study by Getsinger and Garfield (1976), male students reported that a counseling psychologist could be a source of help for emotional, familial, and sexual problems. The Davies et al. (2000) study suggested that college males misattributed the work of counselors. These males ascribed counselors' tasks to other helping professionals. They also identified restrictive emotional openness as a reason for not seeking help, and advanced the notion that seeking mental health counseling carried a more negative stigma than seeking medical help.
Miller (1989) suggested that since adolescents strive to develop their own identity, opinions, and values, some adolescent males may believe that seeking help is the antithesis of being independent. For some young men, even encouraging them to seek help may appear counterproductive to their goal of achieving independence (Rossi, 1992). Although these and the previously noted studies are enlightening, the adolescent male view on the counseling process has yet to fully emerge.
In a study that included adolescent males who reported feeling lonely and depressed, that their lives had no meaning, and that they felt unsure of themselves, only 10% reported employing the services of a psychotherapist (Jessor, Donovan, & Costa, 1991). The study attempted to unearth the adolescent perspective on some facets of help-seeking for emotional/psychological concerns, yet it did not specifically inquire about adolescents' viewpoints on the mental health counseling process.
The present study had this as its primary objective. It investigated the adolescent male view on mental health counseling.
One hundred adolescent males from a Jesuit middle school and a Jesuit preparatory high school in a Midwestern city participated in the study. Both are all-male schools. The participants ranged in age from 12 to 18 years. The mean age was 15.4 years (SD = 1.29). Most (96%) were Caucasian (the remaining 4% were African American), 91% identified themselves as Catholic, and 94% were from upper-middleclass families with college-educated professional parents.
The use of a derivative of the Freudian technique of "free/word association" (Brill, 1938) permitted the males to respond spontaneously regarding the subject of mental health counseling. The following five questions were used to guide the participants' responses: (1) Using a word or word phrase, identify the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear/read the term "counseling." (2) Using a word or word phrase, identify the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear/read the term "mental health counseling." (3) Have you ever used mental health counseling services? (4) Would you ever freely use mental health counseling services for personal, social, emotional, psychological, or spiritual concerns? …