A Two-cite Case Study of Predictive Factors of Individual Help-seeking and How Institutional Factors Influence Undergraduate Help-seeking from the Campus Counseling Center
Noonan, Kathleen E.
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The purpose of the study was to better understand predictive factors related to students’ likelihood to seek help at the university counseling center. While demographic and psychological variables have been identified as predictive factors in many empirical studies, a review of the literature identifies a gap in research related to sense of belonging and campus environment factors associated with help-seeking. There are two research questions that guide the study: 1) What individual influences affect undergraduate likelihood to seek help from the university counseling center for a personal or emotional problem? How does that influence vary across campuses? 2) How do institutional factors relate to undergraduates’ likelihood to seek help from the university counseling center? This study utilized survey data from two campuses; Large Public University (LPU) (N = 226) and Medium Private University (MPU) (N = 145). Interview data were also collected on both campuses, with a sample of 5 at each campus. Block-run regression analyses and interview data were utilized to answer research question one. Interview data, used to answer research question two, were examined through Carspecken’s (1996) “critical qualitative research.” For LPU, (N = 226), findings suggested that gender (b = -.192, p < .05); hours enrolled (b = .484, p < .001); and current campus counseling (b = .841, p < .05) had significant relationships with likelihood to seek help. In terms of ethnicity, as compared to White students, findings suggested that Asian Americans (b = .301, p < .01), African Americans (b = -.550, p < .001), and Hispanics (b = .277, p < .01) all had significant relationships with likelihood to seek help. Distress (b = 2.586, p < .001); Attitude Toward Psychological Help-Seeking (b = 5.506, p < .001); Social Provisions (b = -1.643, p < .001); and Self-concealment (b = -2.207, p < .001) all had significant relationships with likelihood to access professional counseling on campus. For the MPU campus, (N = 145), findings suggested grade point average (b = 4.762, p < .001); hours enrolled (b = -.144, p < .05); current counseling (b = .547, p < .001) had significant relationships with likelihood to seek help. In terms of ethnicity, African Americans (b = .265, p < .01), Hispanics (b = .166, p < .05), and Non-residents (b = .145, p < .05), as compared to White students, were more statistically likely to seek help at the counseling center on campus. Distress (b = .375, p < .01); Attitude Toward Psychological Help-Seeking (b = .724, p < .001); Social Provisions (b = -.186, p < .01); and Self-concealment (b = -.603, p < .01) all had significant relationships with likelihood to access counseling on campus. Qualitative findings across campuses suggested individual differences existed, but there is little difference between campuses as it relates to students’ likelihood to seek help. Sense of belonging on both campuses, from a social and academic standpoint, is highly individualized on both campuses and students feel positively toward both facets of sense of belonging. Findings across campuses also suggested there are particular roles the university should serve to foster an increase in student help-seeking. Incorporating more opportunities for students to interact informally with counseling center professionals is one of the key recommendations for campuses. Findings also offer suggestions for future contributions to research in terms of considering seeking help from a counselor as one of the steps in solving problems during the enrollment period. The study’s findings also suggest implications for practice. Together, through the work of counselors and other student affairs professionals, institutions can better equip faculty, staff and students to more effectively make counseling center referrals for students in need.