Help -seeking behaviors among Latino and Latina college students

Cecilia Maria Duarte, University of Rhode Island


This study examines the ethnocultural and social factors, which impact the psychological well being and help-seeking behaviors among Latino and Latina client and non-client college populations. Latino/a help-seeking is commonly described as “crisis usage,” and underutilization of counseling services has been attributed to cultural and social barriers. The underrepresentation of Latinos in higher education and in counseling centers nationally has led to speculation, of the ethnocultural perceptions of help-seeking among Latino and Latina college students. This research utilized quantitative methods in two studies to address the lack of comprehensive examination of this crisis phenomenon. The first study compared the presentation, severity and potential causal factors involved in symptom endorsement between Latino (n = 16), Latina (n = 51) and Caucasian female (n = 151) and Caucasian male (n = 60) clients at intake in a northeastern university counseling center. The analyses yielded non-significant ethnic group differences, but significant gender differences and ethnic x gender interactions in symptom presentation and severity of symptom endorsement. Among the potential precipitators to seeking help, ethnic group differences were found in academic attainment. Perceptions of support differences were found only if both ethnicity and gender were considered. The second study used individual interviews and focus groups to explore the ethnocultural/social experiences and perceptions of help seeking among Latino (n = 3) and Latina (n = 12) non-client college students. All participants reported that acculturation strains, family loyalties, cultural conflicts, cultural myths of mental health, and societal problems of racism, discrimination and sexism perpetrated by students and faculty, contributed to their level of distress and lack of trust for available counseling services. Alternative sources of support outside of mental health replaced counseling services depending on the specific problem and individual need. Findings from both studies are discussed, as well as implications for research and service provision. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Education, Guidance and Counseling|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Cecilia Maria Duarte, "Help -seeking behaviors among Latino and Latina college students" (2002). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3063767.