Graduate students in psychology experience a multitude of stressors associated with the transition to graduate study and the unique pressures of training in the mental health field (Goplerud, 1980, 2001; Kuther, 2008). Engaging in one's own therapy is thought to be personally and professionally beneficial (Norcross, Strausser-Kirtland, & Missar, 1988; Norcross, Bike, Evans, & Schatz, 2008; Norman & Rosvall, 1994), but research suggests that few students seek help for their problems (Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2006; Stecker, 2004). This could be due to a number of factors, such as the financial strain associated with engaging in weekly therapy sessions (Dearing, Maddux, & Tangney, 2005; Holzman, Searight, & Hughes, 1996) or the stigma of admitting one's own problems and asking for help (Farber, 2000; Stecker, 2004; Stefl & Prosperi, 1985; Vogel, Wade, & Hackler, 2007a). Various modalities of therapy, such as group therapy, also tend to be underutilized compared to individual therapy (Guy, Stark, & Poelstra, 1988; Norcross et al., 1988), possibly because of additional attitudinal or stigma concerns.
This study investigated first-year psychology graduate students' attitudes toward group versus individual therapy, as well as exploring past and current therapy usage as a form of self-care. About half of the sample of 194 psychology graduate students reported engaging in past therapy, with only about 12% of the overall sample reporting current engagement in therapy. Reasons cited for not engaging in therapy include concerns about the financial investment, lack of available time, and beliefs regarding their ability to solve their own problems. Nearly 40% of participants not currently in therapy reported that they needed to be for various reasons.
Overall, the results indicate that attitudes toward individual and group therapy remain fairly positive; however, participants held more favorable attitudes toward individual therapy than group therapy, regardless of whether or not they had ever engaged in their own therapy. Other interesting results were also found based on academic degree program and participation in past and/or current therapy (see Results section).