Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

Diana Formoso

Second Advisor

Christian DeLucia

Third Advisor

Charlene Desir


barriers to treatment, ethnic minorities, Haitian, mental health services, qualitative research, treatment engagement


Migration is on the rise as Haitians seek economic and educational opportunities for their progeny in the U.S. Though migration to a new country often introduces a new set of immigration and acculturation-related stressors that can lead to mental health problems, Haitians remain underrepresented in clinical mental health settings. Previous studies with ethnic minority populations have enumerated several barriers to seeking mental health services. However, research on barriers to help-seeking is sorely lacking for specific migrant groups, including Haitians. Thus, this study examined barriers to seeking help for mental health problems among Haitians. Participants were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling methods. Specifically, recruitment flyers were used to recruit participants meeting specific inclusion criteria, and these participants identified other participants who qualified for this study. Data were collected via four focus groups from 26 Haitian adults, ranging from 18 to 52 years old. A semi-structured focus group protocol developed from research literature was used to conduct these focus groups. Qualitative data analysis was used to organize focus group data into themes. Three major themes emerged: (a) beliefs related to seeking mental health services, (b) cultural values and help-seeking, and (c) education and awareness of services and help-seeking. More specifically, participants noted that Haitian’s beliefs (e.g., religious/spiritual beliefs and beliefs about therapy, therapists, social consequences, and trustworthiness of institutions), cultural values (e.g., minimization of mental health problems, accepting problems as part of life), and education and awareness of mental health and mental health services contribute to Haitians’ likelihood to seek services. In addition, participants noted that these factors likely vary for first and second generation Haitian Americans, which further influences likelihood to seek services. These results suggest that both Haitians (first and second generation) and mental health professionals must take an active role to address barriers to help-seeking related to Haitians’ beliefs, cultural values, and education and awareness of mental health services, and subsequently, enhance treatment engagement.

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