Title

Investigating the relationship between preferences for therapists’ sex and seeking mental health support among a sample of Australian respondents

Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Psychology) Honours

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart

Field of Research Code

17

Abstract

The proportion of male psychologists in Australia is discrepant to the proportion of male Australians with a mental health disorder, but due to gaps in the literature on help-seeking, it is difficult to establish if the discrepancy might deter some people from seeking support. A large but inconclusive body of research links sex preferences with therapeutic alliance and outcomes, but little is known on whether accommodating sex preferences affects willingness to seek support. Based on gender schema theory and expectation effects, it is a reasonable expectation that a person who believes therapy success is contingent on the sex of the therapist would be less likely to seek help if they were concerned their preference may not be met. The present study investigated the sex preferences of Australian respondents for a potential therapist and whether accommodating such preferences or not affects willingness to seek mental health support. The study employed a within subjects survey design and used a convenience sample of N = 563 participants recruited via social media. Demographics, sex preferences, problem type, and likelihood to seek mental health support if sex preference is accommodated or not were collected via an online questionnaire. Analyses included tests for group differences and regression. Three hypotheses were posed. Supporting the first hypothesis, male respondents reported lower baseline likelihood to seek mental health support than female respondents. Partially supporting the second hypothesis, a main effect of sex of respondent on sex preferences was found, but no main effect of problem type on sex preferences and no interaction of sex of respondent and problem type on preferences were found. Supporting the third hypothesis, accommodating sex preferences predicted helpseeking. In conclusion, it is prudent to encourage practitioners to monitor and accommodate client’s sex preferences. Additionally, more males could be encouraged to enter the mental health professions. This informs education and health policy. Future research could further explore the effects of occupation and problem type on sex preferences and help-seeking.

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