Brief and Nontraditional Approaches to Mental Health Counseling: Practitioners' Attitudes. (Research)

By Evans, Marcheta P.; Valadez, Albert A. et al. | Journal of Mental Health Counseling, October 2002 | Go to article overview

Brief and Nontraditional Approaches to Mental Health Counseling: Practitioners' Attitudes. (Research)


Evans, Marcheta P., Valadez, Albert A., Burns, Shaun, Rodriguez, Vicki, Journal of Mental Health Counseling


This study examined differences between professional work setting, gender, and ethnic group membership, and attitudes toward brief and nontraditional therapeutic approaches. Respondents' preferences and attitudinal dimensions were assessed along each of these domains. Results indicated that practitioners of minority classification, males, and individuals employed in private practice held more favorable attitudes toward brief therapeutic' approaches, and ethnic minority group members were significantly more likely to hold favorable attitudes toward nontraditional clinical practices. No significant differences were revealed between male/female, white/ethnic minority population, and professional work settings regarding projected perceptions of attitudes toward nontraditional practices. Discussion and implications of the present research highlight key attitude differences between participants and the impact of these divergences on the practice of mental health counseling.

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Traditional psychotherapy typically signifies a long-term and intensive commitment to dialectical cures (Hayes & Heiby, 1996). Recently, however, managed care companies have rejected lengthy therapeutic commitments in favor of time/cost effective alternatives. This shift has facilitated a proliferation in the use of brief and nontraditional therapies in counseling settings. For example, by approving 10 or less visits for outpatient mental health care, managed care initiatives compel mental health counselors to adopt short-term therapies (De Shazer, 1985). While health maintenance organizations typically define brief therapy as a limited number of visits (e.g., 6 to 10), therapists tend to define brief therapy as a set of pragmatic, goal-oriented methods and techniques designed to benefit clients within a limited number of therapeutic sessions.

In light of this divergence, investigation of mental health therapists' attitudes toward nontraditional and brief approaches, consumer demands, and ethical standards is warranted. This study examined the attitudinal favorability of a variety of mental health care professionals of diverse ethnic, professional, and gender classifications. Specifically, the authors explored the overall degree of attitudinal favorability regarding the use of and perceptions of brief and nontraditional therapeutic approaches to mental health counseling. In concluding, the authors discuss implications for mental health practice and directions for research in the study of nontraditional and brief therapies.

In broad terms "an attitude may be defined as a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor" (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 1). Attitudes are multi-component constructs consisting of global evaluations, cognitions, and affect (Zanna & Rempel, 1986). Cognitive components include both attributions and beliefs about the attitude-object as derived from continual interactions and reactions to attitude-objects (Zajonc, 1984). In contrast, the affect component arises in response to emotionally evoking environmental outcomes and is later bolstered by processing cognitive information congruent with these affective-based attitudes.

Several important cognitive, emotional, and experiential mechanisms are implicated in shaping the strength, direction, and endurance of individual attitudes. For instance, Pomerantz, Chaiken, and Tordesillas (1995) demonstrated that the attitude's importance, an essential aspect of its development, is positively associated with resistance to persuasive social influence and behavioral actions congruent with the attitude. Thus, as individuals acquire more experience with an attitude object (i.e., with brief and nontraditional therapies), they develop convictions and values that are resistant to social mechanisms of change. Moreover, past experience with behavioral objects increases the strength of attitude-behavior consistency (Eagly, 1992) such as in mental health counselors' implementation of nontraditional and brief approaches throughout the duration of their practice. …

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