Expectations and Preferences for Psychotherapy Among African American and White Young Adults

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Objectives: This study examined beliefs, expectations, and preferences related to mental health problems and treatment in a sample of young adults who are in a developmental period when many types of psychopathology emerge. Prior studies on this topic have primarily included samples that are older and predominately White. It is not clear whether results from that research generalize to diverse samples of young adults.

Methods: Participants were 370 undergraduate students (41.3% African American; 76.5% female) who completed questionnaires about expectations and preferences for psychotherapy and therapists.

Results: Findings regarding racial differences include African Americans having less experience with mental health services and different goals for psychotherapy than did Whites. Additionally, African Americans, relative to Whites, demonstrated stronger preferences for couple, family, and group psychotherapy, a male therapist their same race, and a therapist who is assertive and structured in session.

Conclusions: The results of this study provide information about young adults’ perceptions, expectations, and preferences related to mental health problems and psychotherapy. Findings suggest some barriers to treatment that might be addressed to improve treatment engagement and utilization of psychological services among young adults in general and among African American young adults specifically.

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Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

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