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ABSTRACT

 

The study examined the influence of self disclosure, perceived stigma and social support
on students’ attitude and intentions to seek counselling. Four hundred and ninety nine
(266 male and 233 female) undergraduates of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, aged 18 to
28years (mean age= 23.90, SD= 2.70), participated in the study. Attitude was measured
using Attitude Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale while Intentions
was measured using Intentions of Seeking Counselling Inventory. Self Disclosure,
Perceived Stigma and Social Support were measured using Jourard’s Self Disclosure
Questionnaire, Social Stigma for Receiving Psychological Help Scale and
Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support respectively. Multivariate analysis
of variance showed that self disclosure did not significantly influence students’ attitude
toward seeking counselling. Perceived Stigma significantly influenced students’ attitude
toward seeking counselling, F (1,498) =15.80, p<.001. Social support did not influence
students’ attitude toward seeking counselling. Self disclosure was found to have
significantly influenced students’ intentions to seek counselling, F (1,498) =14.98,
p<.001. Further, perceived stigma significantly influenced students’ intentions to seek
counselling, F (1,498) =14.73, p<.001. However, social support did not significantly
influence their intentions to seek counselling. There was a significant interaction effect
between self disclosure and perceived stigma on attitude toward seeking counselling, F
(1,498) =4.94, p<.05; Self disclosure also interacted with social support on attitudes, F
(1,498) =4.50, p<.05. There was equally a significant three-way interaction among self
disclosure, perceived stigma and social support on attitude towards seeking counselling
only, F (1,498) =14.89, p<.001. Lastly, there was a significant interaction between self
disclosure and social support on students’ intentions to seek counselling, F (1,498) =3.94,
p<.05.The implications of findings were discussed, limitations outlined and
recommendation for future studies made.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Title Page i
Certification ii
Dedication iii
Acknowledgements iv
Table of Contents v
List of Tables vii
List of Figures viii
List of Appendices ix
Abstract x
Chapter One: Introduction 1
Statement of the Problem 9
Purpose of Study 10
Operational Definition of Terms 11
Chapter Two: Literature Review 13
Theoretical Review 13
Empirical Review 23
Summary of Literature Reviewed 36
Hypothesis 38
Chapter Three: Method 39
Participants 39
Instruments 39
Procedure 45
vi
Design/ Statistics 45
Chapter Four: Results 47
Chapter Five: Discussion 56
Implications of the Study 66
Limitations of the study, and Suggestions for Further Studies 69
Summary and Conclusion 69
References 71
Appendices 80

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION
The years of secondary and tertiary education are a very challenging period for
youths. This is because the period is characterized by new roles and demands. The youth
learns for the first time to live away from the family, get acquainted and friendly with
new friends and make personal decisions regarding time use and financial management.
A typical student is expected to attend classes, arrange meals, produce assignments, study
for tests and examinations, deal with class- mates, contend with roommates, attend
fellowship, and wash clothes and tidy surroundings, while handling all other
socioeconomic demands. In addition, they need to define their career interests, work hard
to pursue it and get ready for the hustles and bustles of the labor market. The condition in
most tertiary institutions in Nigeria makes it all the more stressful for students’ enrolled
therein. Students battle with lack of adequate accommodation, survive on little cash,
endure cramped classrooms, and deal with the academic loads. All these are sources of
stress for the young person.
One avenue through which relief from such pressures could be achieved is by
seeking and utilizing counselling services. Counselling is seen as providing advice or
guidance in decision making especially in emotionally significant situations. Burks and
Steffire (1979) defined counselling as helping clients understand and clarify their views
about life and to learn to reach their self-determined goals through meaningful, well
informed choices and through resolution of problems of an emotional or interpersonal
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nature. Feltham and Dryden (1993) defined counselling as a principled relationship
characterized by the application of one or more psychological theories and a recognized
set of communication skills, modified by experience, intuition and other interpersonal
factors, to clients’ intimate concerns, problems or aspirations. Thus one can posit that
counselling is a process through which a professional counsellor or therapist interacts
with clients in distress (academic, career, relationship, marital, financial, social,
emotional, or adjustment) with the aim of helping them resolve such distress and adapt
better to their environment.
A common theme in counselling is that it involves a client in distress, who must
wish to change and as such, be willing to collaborate with the counsellor. The clients
must also believe that the counsellor has the ability to help them resolve their problems.
Lopez, Melendez, Sauer, Berger and Wyssmann (1998) pointed out that the
acknowledgement of personal problems does not, in and of itself, propel affected persons
to seek therapeutic help. They added that those persons who pursue counselling must not
only be experiencing distress but must also be inclined, under these circumstances to
perceive others as potential sources of help and support.
Counselling could be on individual basis or in a group. It could be done face to
face, over the telephone, by email or through any other appropriate media. Diverse
categories of persons need counselling services. These include school children,
adolescents, undergraduates, single parents, divorcees, old persons, married couples, job
seekers, addicts, and the mentally ill. Counselling could be sought at counselling centers,
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at hospitals, at various correctional institutions, at mental health institutions, and
academic settings. Regardless of the type of counselling, the counsellor needs to be close
to the target groups that need it.
Counselling centers situated in schools address adjustment issues that worry
students. These issues range from communication problems, adjustment to university life,
romantic relationships, class phobia, test anxiety, study skills, academic failures, low self
esteem and relations with parents. The list is endless. Seeking such professional help
equips the students with skills needed to deal with stress encountered at school.
Counselling helps students resolve distressing conflicts and developmental or adjustment
difficulties, and thus live healthier and happier lives.
Counselling is one of the psychological services available in Nigerian
Universities. Judging by the number of counselling centers around the country and the
rate at which students visit these centers, one could see that counselling is still at its
fledgling stage. Cramer (1999), called the gap between available mental health services
and service utilization rates the “service gap”. Evidence of such gap is seen in the
responses from staff of a youth friendly center in University of Nigeria, Nsukka. They
report that only a handful of students visit the center for any kind of counselling. Even
when they organize some outreach programs to attract the students, the turnout was still
not encouraging.
Psychology students on practicum postings at the Psychological Services Center at
the University of Nigeria, Nsukka also reported a low turn up of students for any form of
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therapy. One begins to wonder why such is the case. The environment where these
students live and study is full of stressors that make survival a challenge for them. Why
they fail to utilize counselling services available for their assistance is not clear.
Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) defined attitude as, a learned predisposition to respond
in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner, with respect to a given object.
Hence, attitudes toward seeking counselling can be defined as learned predispositions to
respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to seeking
counselling. There are many studies on attitudes of students toward seeking counselling.
Some, like Salim (2010) found that students generally do not seek help from counsellors.
They rather deal with the issues as best they could or tell their peers. In their study of
when and how young people seek professional help for mental problems, Rickwood,
Deane, and Wilson (2007) pointed out that despite the high prevalence of mental health
problems and disorders that develop in adolescence and early adulthood, young people
tend not to seek professional help. They added that young people are more inclined to
seek help for mental health problems if they: have some knowledge about mental health
issues and sources of help; feel emotionally competent to express their feelings; and have
established and trusted relationships with potential help providers. Further, young people
are less likely to seek help if they: are experiencing suicidal thoughts and depressive
symptoms; hold negative attitudes toward seeking help or have had negative past
experiences with sources of help; or hold beliefs that they should be able to sort out their
own mental health problems on their own.
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There seems to be little or no previous studies on the attitude of Nigerian students
toward seeking counselling. Even though some institutions establish counselling centers,
very few students utilize the services available in those centers. This seems to support the
claim by Chian and Lois (2009) that the concept of seeking formal help is relatively a
Western belief, borne out of values such as autonomy, individualism, mastery of the
environment, and future orientation commonly found in individualistic cultures.
Most studies on seeking psychological help examined both the students’ attitudes
toward seeking counselling and their intentions to seek counselling. The intentions to
seek counselling refer to the students’ willingness or how likely they would seek
counselling if they were experiencing psychological problems. Carlton and Deane (2002)
found that attitudes significantly predicted students’ self-rated help-seeking intentions.
Mackenzie, Gekoski, and Knox (2006) also found a link between a person’s attitude and
intentions to seek counselling. They reported that women exhibited more favourable
intentions to seek help from mental health professionals than men, likely due to their
positive attitudes concerning psychological openness. The men who held negative
attitudes toward seeking psychological help had little or no intentions to seek help.
Many factors affecting help seeking attitudes and intentions to seek counselling
have been studied (e.g., culture, Anastas, 2010; knowledge of mental health, Reiko, 2008;
self concealment, Kelly and Achter, 1995; and social support, Vogel and Wei, 2005).
However, the present study aims at examining the influence of self disclosure, stigma and
social support on both the students’ attitudes toward seeking counselling and their
intentions to seek counselling.
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Jourard (1958) defined self disclosure as the process of making the self known to
other persons. These target persons are persons whom information about the self is
communicated. Norrel (1989) defined self disclosure as the process by which persons
make themselves known to each other, and occur when an individual communicates
genuine thoughts and feelings. From the above definitions, the following stand out about
self disclosure: It involves more than one person; information being shared must be
personally private; and the thoughts, feelings or actions disclosed must be true and
genuine. Thus, one can say that self disclosure is the process of sharing genuine
personally private information, affects, and actions with others for the purpose of a
deeper knowledge, understanding and relationship with them.
Research revealed some relation between self disclosure and attitudes toward and
intentions to seek counselling. Vogel and Wester (2003) studied college students’
attitudes toward self disclosure, and the risks, and rewards of disclosing within a
therapeutic relationship. They found that the students’ comfort with self disclosing of
distressing information and the perceived benefits of such self disclosure had a high
association with willingness to seek help. Cramer (1999) gave a model where he linked
self-concealment to help seeking through its relationships with social support, distress,
and attitudes toward help. His findings indicated that individuals who tend to conceal
information also experience less social support, greater psychological distress, and less
positive attitudes toward seeking help.
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The most frequently cited reason why people do not seek counselling and other
mental health services is the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking treatment
(Corrigan, 2004). Vogel, Wade and Haake (2006) pointed out that the stigma associated
with seeking mental health services is the perception that a person who seeks
psychological treatment is undesirable or socially unacceptable. There is stigma attached
to both psychological services and to the persons who have psychological illness. Stigma
is characterized by fear, mistrust, dislike, and occasionally, violence against the mentally
ill (Gonzalez, Tinsley, & Kreuder, 2002). Past research (e.g., Fischer & Turner, 1970)
also suggests that stigmatization associated with psychological help, something that is
seen as socially unacceptable, is also inclusive of terms such as ‘mental hospital’,
‘psychiatrist’, and the fear of being labeled ‘crazy’, or ‘insane’, which are all likely to
discourage individuals considering psychological help. Satcher (1999) stated that the fear
of stigmatization deters individuals from, (a) acknowledging their illness, (b) seeking
help, and (c) remaining in treatment, thus creating unnecessary suffering.
Corrigan (2004) identified two types of stigma: perceived or social stigma and
self stigma. Perceived stigma is society’s rejection of a person due to certain behaviour or
physical appearances that are deemed unacceptable, dangerous or frightening (Vogel &
Wade, 2009). According to Sibicky and Dovido (1986), perceived stigma refers to the
stigma that other people attach to a label, for example, people labeled as having used
counselling services have been rated less favourably and treated more negatively than
those who were not labeled, and this can affect help-seeking behaviours when the person
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with the psychological problem fears the reactions of her/his peer group, family,
employers or other social group.
Social support is another factor that has been seen to influence intended use of
counselling services for college students. Social support has been defined by Shumaker
and Brownell (1984) as an exchange of resources between at least two individuals
perceived by the provider or the recipient to be intended to enhance the well-being of the
recipient. Lin (1986) defined it as perceived or actual instrumental and/or expressive
provisions supplied by the community, social networks, and confiding partners. From
these definitions, one can say that social support refers to the degree to which a student’s
basic social needs (e.g., approval, companionship, love, security, affection, and
belonging) are made available by a provider (family, friend, or others), with the aim of
improving the student’s wellbeing. In addition, support could be one of three different
types: instrumental, emotional, and informational. Instrumental support entails the
physical and economical support an individual receives from social support. Emotional
support entails the affection, empathy, and acceptance gained from social support.
Informational support involves advice and information conveyed from social support
(Lyons, 1997).
Powell and Kotschessa (1995) suggested that the decision to seek help seems to be
influenced by individuals believing that they have a problem and that they cannot deal
with it on their own or with those close to them (e.g., they perceive less social support).
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Because such individuals perceive that they have less social support from people close to
them, their distress experiences may remain, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that
they will need to seek professional help.
Çebi (2009) examined the effects of perceived social support, psychological
distress, prior help-seeking experience and gender on attitudes toward seeking
psychological help of university students. It was found that friends were the most
frequently stated sources of help in times of need for personal problems and that
perceived social support predicted attitudes toward seeking psychological help.
Generally, young persons are known to feel freer confiding in their peers, some confide
in family members, while others do confide in any other significant person in their lives.
Rickwood, Deane and Wilson (2007) stated that young people may seek help through
talking to their family and friends, with family being more important for younger
adolescents, and friends and partners becoming more influential later on. The
professionals most likely to act as gatekeepers to mental health services for young people
are school counsellors, general practitioners, and youth workers.
Statement of the problem
The challenges youths face today are numerous. When left unattended these pressures
pose a great threat to their mental health. Use of counselling services is a way that the
students could use to deal with some challenges they face. Such timely intervention will
go a long way to prevent the problems from becoming full blown mental illness cases.
However, there has been a big service gap in that very few students utilize counselling
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services available in their schools. As a result, some researchers have looked at some
factors that could be responsible for such service gap.
However, very few of them have studied the Nigerian population. Secondly, fewer
studies focused on the influence of self disclosure, stigma and social support on the
students’ attitudes and intentions to seek counselling. Hence, the present study was
designed to provide answers to the following questions:
i. Will self disclosure significantly influence students’ attitudes towards seeking
counselling?
ii. Will perceived stigma significantly influence students’ attitudes towards seeking
counselling?
iii. Will social support significantly influence students’ attitudes towards seeking
counselling?
iv. Will self disclosure significantly influence students’ intentions to seek
counselling?
v. Will perceived stigma significantly influence students’ intentions to seek
counselling?
vi. Will social support significantly influence students’ intentions to seek
counselling?
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Purpose of the study
Having considered the challenging environment that students usually encounter in
their respective institutions; and the fact that very few of them seek counselling on how
to solve their problems; the researcher intends to look at some factors that could explain
students’ attitudes and intentions to seek counselling. The present study is aimed at
examining the influence of self disclosure, stigma and perceived social support on
students’ attitudes toward seeking counselling and their intentions to seek counselling.
Operational Definition of Terms
Counselling: A professional interaction with students experiencing developmental or
adjustment difficulties with the aim of helping them resolve such difficulties and live
healthier lives.
Attitude Toward Seeking Counselling: Students’ predispositions to respond in a
consistently favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to seeking counselling as
measured by the Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale –
Short Form (ATSPPH-SF) (Fischer & Farina, 1995).
Intentions to Seek Counselling: How likely students will seek counselling if they were
experiencing psychological distress, as measured by the Intentions to Seeking
Counselling Inventory (ISCI) (Cash, Begley, McCown, & Weise, 1975).
Self Disclosure: The students’ level of sharing genuine personally private thoughts,
feelings and deeds with others as measured by Jourard’s Self-Disclosure Questionnaire
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(Jourard & Lasakow, 1958). Those who score above the mean are classified as high self
disclosers while those who score below the mean are regarded as low self disclosers.
Stigma: the perception that a person who is mentally ill or seeks psychological treatment
is undesirable or socially unacceptable.
Perceived Stigma: An individual’s perception of societies’ or other people’s label that
he/she is undesirable or socially unacceptable because of having mental health concern or
seeking psychological help as measured by the Social Stigma for Receiving
Psychological Help scale (SSRPH) by Komiya, Good, and Sherrod (2000). Participants
who score above the mean are regarded as having high perceived stigma while those who
score below the mean are seen as having low perceived stigma.
Social Support: The degree to which students perceive that their basic social needs are
met by people around them as measured by the total score of the Multidimensional Scale
of Perceived Social Support (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet, & Farley, 1988). Those who score
above the mean are classified as high social support group while those who score below
the mean form the low social support group.
Students: Undergraduates of University of Nigeria Nsukka.

 

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