The Role of Self-Stigma
By Naila Al Moosawi
One of the major obstacles to seeking psychological help is the stigma associated with counseling and therapy. Self-stigma, the fear of losing self-respect or self-esteem as a result of seeking help, is an important factor in the help-seeking process. In the present study, college students meeting a clinical cutoff for psychological symptoms participated in 1 session of group counseling that either contained therapist self-disclosure or did not. In general, participants reported significantly less self-stigma following the session. Working alliance–bond and session depth significantly predicted the change in self-stigma. Furthermore, self-stigma (as well as bond, depth, psychological symptoms, and being female) predicted the intention to seek help following the session. Self-stigma and session depth also predicted interest in continuing with counseling. The therapist self-disclosure condition, however, had no effect on the change in self-stigma, intentions to seek help, or interest in continuing with group counseling.
Despite the awareness of the relationship between perceived public stigma and the decision to seek treatment, the complex role that stigma plays in this decision-making process is not fully known. Corrigan (1998, 2004) asserted that there are two separate types of stigma affecting an individual’s decision to seek treatment. The first, public stigma, is the perception held by others (i.e., by society) that an individual is socially unacceptable. The second, self-stigma, is the perception held by the individual that he or she is socially unacceptable, which can lead to a reduction in self-esteem or self-worth if the person seeks psychological help (Vogel et al., 2006). In other words, the negative images expressed by society toward those who seek psychological services may be internalized (Corrigan, 1998, 2004; Holmes & River, 1998) and lead people to perceive themselves as inferior, inadequate, or weak...