Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Steven Danish


OBJECTIVE: The current study explored the applicability of the social norms approach to a new domain of study: psychological help-seeking. A number of questions that must be answered to determine whether the social norms model can be applied effectively to the help-seeking domain guided the study. METHOD: Data were collected from freshmen at five colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region (N = 3021) during freshman orientation week. The study used a cross sectional design to examine personal attitudes and behaviors related to help-seeking as well as perceptions about others’ attitudes and behaviors related to help-seeking. RESULTS: Most participants reported that they were willing to seek help and viewed seeking help as a personal strength rather than personal weakness. However, discrepancies between “reality” and perception indicate that most freshmen in this sample misperceived reality. Most participants underestimated the extent to which peers are accepting of seeking psychological help and most participants were not accurate in their perceptions of peer help seeking behaviors. This misperception significantly influenced personal willingness to seek help. CONCLUSIONS: The data indicate that the social norms method of intervention is applicable to the domain of help seeking and efforts to reduce stigma. Implications, next steps for future research, and limitations of the current study are discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

Included in

Psychology Commons