The relationship between clients' preferences of therapists' sex and mental health support seeking: An exploratory study
In Australia, the number of female psychologists is significantly larger than that of male psychologists. Due to gaps in the literature, it is difficult to establish whether such discrepancies affect mental health support seeking. The present study investigated the preferences of Australian respondents for the sex of a potential therapist and whether the accommodation of such preferences affects mental health support seeking.
The study employed a mixed design online survey analysed using multiple linear and multinomial logistic regressions and used a convenience sample of N = 456 Australian participants recruited via social media. Demographics, preferences for therapists' sex, problem type, and likelihood to seek help if preferences for therapists' sex were accommodated or not were collected via an online questionnaire. Analyses included tests for group differences and regressions.
Male respondents reported lower baseline likelihood to seek mental health support than female respondents. A main effect of sex of respondent on preferences for therapists' sex was found, but no main effect of problem type on preferences for therapists' sex was evident. Finally, accommodating preferences for therapists' sex was a significant predictor of mental health support seeking.
It is prudent to encourage the monitoring and accommodation of clients' preferences of therapists' sex. Additionally, more males could be encouraged to enter the mental health professions. The results of the current study may inform education and health policy. Future research could further explore the effects of occupation and problem type on preferences for therapists' sex and help‐seeking.