Vogel Research Lab
Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, IA
A recent focus of our research has been to develop a richer understanding of the psychological barriers to seeking counseling and therapy. Studies suggest that as few as 11% of those who have a diagnosable disorder seek professional help in a given year. The most cited reason as to why individuals avoid treatment is because of concerns about the public stigma associated with mental illness (i.e., negative evaluations of individuals experiencing a mental health issue).
Once clients decide to seek help, the profession has a responsibility to make sure that they are provided with culturally sensitive care. As such, another focus of my research has been to extend the professions’ understanding of counselors’ biases and stereotypes. My longest line of research in this area has been examining gender stereotypes. Colleagues and I discovered that the societal stereotype of women and men often reflects an over-estimation of the differences between the sexes.
Recently, we have expanded this work on stereotyping to explore counselors’ beliefs about other stereotyped groups, in particular, gay men and individuals of color. We have also been one of the first researchers to apply aspects of social and cognitive psychology to the study of this issue by measuring reaction times to stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent stimuli in counselor and college student populations. Not only can societal stereotypes be problematic when held by others, but also individuals who self-endorse a societal stereotype may feel increased pressure to live up this internalized role. This pressure may lead to increased distress and loss of self-esteem.