Measuring the influence of self-efficacy, fear of stigma, prior counseling experience, and encouragement on college students' attitudes toward psychological counseling
Tabony, Rebecca S.
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When college students need assistance, their attitudes toward help seeking may interfere with whether they ask for assistance or continue to solve their problems on their own. The purpose of this study was to measure the influence that self-efficacy, prior counseling experience, fear of stigma, and encouragement had on college students’ attitudes toward counseling. Four hundred eighty undergraduate college students from a rural university in a north central Texas county participated in this survey research. Participant data were examined separately for students with prior counseling experience and no prior counseling experience. One-way ANOVAs were calculated to investigate whether differences existed between these two groups in their ratings of self-efficacy, stigma, encouragement, and attitude toward counseling. The group that had no prior counseling reported more concerns of being stigmatized by counseling, rated themselves as more encouraged individuals, and had lower perceptions of self-efficacy than the group with prior counseling experience. These results suggest that students who have not experienced counseling are a varied group, ranging from very encouraged individuals to those doubting their own capabilities. Pearson Product-Moment correlation coefficients were calculated to investigate the relationships between stigma, self-efficacy, encouragement and attitude toward counseling for student participants. Results indicate that more positive attitudes toward counseling were positively related to being older and female. These analyses also revealed that self-efficacy was associated with being male and with higher levels of encouragement. Two multiple regressions (i.e., group that had prior counseling experience and group than had not had prior counseling experience) were calculated to investigate which of the variables listed above were the best predictors of participants’ attitudes toward counseling. Among participants who had no prior counseling experience, encouragement, self-efficacy, and gender were significant predictors of attitude toward counseling. Among participants who had prior counseling experience, gender and age were the significant predictors of attitude toward counseling. Lastly, an ANCOVA revealed that the majority of the variance in attitudes toward counseling was accounted for by prior counseling experience. Findings suggest that, although the fear of being stigmatized may not affect students' attitudes toward counseling, it remains an important variable in the decision to seek or not seek counseling services. Actually engaging students in counseling-related experiences will have the greatest influence on positively shaping their attitudes toward counseling.