Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
This research developed and tested online self-affirmation interventions to reduce psychological barriers associated with seeking help for mental health issues in two studies. There is evidence that reflecting on personal values (values-affirmation) and reflecting on close social relationships (social-affirmation) may both be effective approaches to eliciting self-affirmation—a psychological process that temporarily bolsters self-worth in order to forestall maladaptive, self-protective threat-responses. Study 1 (N = 384) experimentally examined the strategies of values-affirmation, social-affirmation, and type of help-seeking information presented to potential help-seekers. This study utilized a 2ÃÂ2ÃÂ2 factorial design with two self-affirmation manipulations (i.e., values-affirmation vs. no-affirmation and social-affirmation vs. no-affirmation), as well as an information manipulation (reassuring help-seeking information vs. standard help-seeking information). It was predicted that values-affirmation, social-affirmation and reassuring help-seeking information would (1) reduce threat-responses associated with reading the help-seeking information, and (2) increase positive help-seeking beliefs. Results indicated that values-affirmation and reassuring information both reduced negative affect and perceived help-seeking information threat, but did not affect time spent reading help-seeking information. Social-affirmation had no statistically significant effects on any dependent variable. No experimental manipulation directly increased positive help-seeking beliefs, but values-affirmation and reassuring information both had beneficial indirect effects on positive help-seeking beliefs, via reductions in threat and self-stigma. No main effects were found two weeks posttest, but a social-affirmationÃÂinformation interaction effect indicated that the combination of social-affirmation and standard information or no-affirmation and reassuring information was associated with decreased self-stigma two weeks after the manipulation. Study 2 tested the values-affirmation developed in Study 1 with an online sample of clinically distressed adults. Study 2 utilized a two-group between-subjects design with a sample from Amazon’s MTurk (N = 186). In contrast to Study 1, for more distressed adults, values-affirmation did not reduce threat-responses associated with reading the help-seeking information, but it did increase positive help-seeking beliefs. Overall, the combination of results in the present research suggests that values-affirmation and reassuring information about help-seeking might be effective approaches for eliciting self-affirmation online. Additionally, the salience of psychological distress and demographic characteristics may influence the outcome of self-affirmation interventions conducted to promote help-seeking. For those for whom distress is less salient, encouraging self-affirmation may reduce threat associated with relevant help-seeking information, but doing so may also decrease the urgency to seek help. In contrast, for those whose distress is more salient, encouraging self-affirmation may not directly reduce threat, but may enable more objective assessments of messages that encourage the benefits of seeking professional help for mental health concerns.
Daniel G. Lannin
Lannin, Daniel G., "Reducing barriers to psychotherapy via an online self-affirmation intervention" (2016). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15746.