Lisa M. Bobby


Johnson, Brian D.

Committee Member

Softas-Nall, Basilia

Committee Member

Murdock, Jennifer

Committee Member

Kling, Nathan


Applied Psychology & Counselor Education


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





316 pages

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Born digital


Despite a high need for effective mental health treatment, psychological services are often underutilized. Prior research has revealed factors associated with help-seeking behaviors or avoidance of psychological services. However, little is currently known about how to communicate effectively about psychological services in a manner that may increase rates of utilization. This dissertation documents original research that compared the impact of message framing on factors known to be associated with help seeking; particularly attitude, self-stigma, and intention. One-hundred and fifty-one freshmen at a Midwestern University were exposed to either a positive, negative or neutrally framed message about psychological services on campus. They were then assessed in a variety of domains including: Attitudes towards psychological services; perceptions of self-stigma; and intention to seek help. Information about demographic variables was also collected, including previous experience in mental health treatment, current levels of psychological distress, gender, race, and age. MANOVA procedures comparing the effect of the messages in the population as a whole, and between participants with and without current subjective psychological distress showed that there was not a significant relationship between message framing on attitude, stigma or intention. However, message framing was shown to have significant impact on attitude, stigma and intention (particularly around perceptions of self-stigma) when explored in the context of moderating variables including gender, past experience with mental health treatment, and race. It was shown that men experience greater self-stigma around help seeking after being exposed to a negatively framed message. People with past experience in therapy reported higher positive attitudes towards therapy and greater intentions to seek help after being exposed to a positively framed message. People with past experience in therapy reported lower levels of self-stigma after being exposed to a positive message about mental health treatment. Additionally, this study found some evidence to suggest that participants identifying as Hispanic may hold poorer attitudes, greater perceptions of self-stigma and lower intentions to seek help after being exposed to either a positively or negatively framed message about psychological service, as compared to a neutral control message. The clinical implications of these findings are addressed, and suggestions for future research are provided.

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