McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Jacquelyn Lopez

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Major and Classification

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

    Steven Lopez, Ph.D.

Department

    Psychology

McNair Project

Coping with Psychological Distress: Perceptions of Counseling Services among Latino College Students

Abstract
Research indicates racial and ethnic minority college students underuse mental health services. Previous studies, however, have focused primarily on quantitative data and few have focused on in-depth, first hand dialogue. The current study utilizes the phenomenological research tradition to examine Latino college students' ideas of mental health and experiences with counseling services. The sample consisted of eight, self-identified Latino college students. Students were asked to describe their ideas of mental health, stressors in college, coping methods, and perceptions of college counseling services. Following the phenomenological research tradition all interviews were transcribed and analyzed into significant statements and then clustered into themes. Six significant themes were identified: first experiences with psychological distress, reluctance to share issues, unpleasant feelings towards counseling environment, counseling as a last resort, family influences and values, and increased discourse for destigmatization of counseling. Findings revealed that several students had negative perceptions towards mental health counseling, which coincides with previous research. Latino college students were not inclined to utilize college counseling services. Students described stigma regarding mental health and mental health services, however, they realized the importance of discussing mental health with others. Further research is needed to determine how to increase positive perceptions and utilization of mental health counseling services among Latino college students.