The Relationship between Racial Identity Schemas, Cultural Mistrust, and Help-Seeking Attitudes as Predictors of Prospective Black Clients’ Willingness to Seek Counseling from White Clinicians




Woodard, Nicole L.

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Historically, people of African descent have been characterized as a population plagued with higher rates of mental illness when compared to their White counterparts. Yet, evidence exists that Blacks are less likely to use mental health services when compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Potential factors for Blacks’ lack of utilization of mental health services include cultural and racial mistrust of the mental health system, stigma associated with mental health, and educational barriers. However, research in this area is greatly lacking. The current study aimed to examine the potential impact of cultural mistrust, racial identity schemas, and help-seeking attitudes on the willingness of prospective Black clients to seek professional mental health services from a White clinician or a clinic primarily staffed by Whites. This study examined racial identity schemas, cultural mistrust, help-seeking attitudes, and demographic variables (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, etc.) as related to prospective Black clients’ willingness to seek counseling from a White clinician. The nationwide sample consisted of 740 self-identified African American or Black adult participants (335 males, 405 females). Each respondent completed the following instruments: Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale – Short Form (ATSPPHS-S), Client Willingness Scale (CWS), Racial Identity Attitude Scale (RIAS-B), Cultural Mistrust Inventory (CMI), and Background Information Questionnaire (BIQ). Four hypotheses were tested using descriptive statistics, reliability analyses, one-way ANOVA, chi-square analyses, Pearson correlation, multiple regression, and a variant of structural equation modeling called path analysis. Findings of the one-way ANOVA revealed that participants who completed the electronic survey, and who were college educated, had more positive help-seeking attitudes than those participants who completed the surveys by paper and those who had little to no college education. Findings of the chi-square analysis revealed a significant difference in primary coping mechanisms by sex, consideration of counseling by sex, and prior counseling experience by sex. Findings also revealed a statistically significant relationship between participants’ educational attainment and survey formatting, and student status and survey formatting. Pearson correlation resulted in significant relationships for client willingness with help-seeking attitudes, racial identity schemas, and cultural mistrust. Racial identity, help-seeking attitudes, and cultural mistrust significantly predicted prospective Black clients’ willingness to seek counseling from a White clinician. Finally, path analysis revealed a statistically significant direct effect of cultural mistrust, racial identity schemas, help- seeking attitudes, and consideration of counseling on the willingness of Black clients to seek counseling from a White clinician. Results from this study could assist practitioners and researchers in isolating specific factors that influence Blacks’ perceptions and utilization of mental health systems.



Counseling, Cultural Mistrust, Help-Seeking Attitudes, Racial Identity