We designed this qualitative research study to better understand the experiences of college students in a United States context who do not seek counseling for their perceived need for help, and to address barriers that prevent them from doing so. The results of this phenomenological study indicate three barriers: negative feelings based upon ones’ past-experience with counseling, the stigma that surrounds a need for counseling, and the messages participants received from their parents regarding counseling. This research paper will elaborate on this study and will provide helpful information related to breaking these barriers.


College Counseling, Help Seeking, Academic Success, Phenomenology

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Laurel Shaler (Liberty University) holds a PhD in Counselor Education and Family Studies and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is a National Certified Counselor, a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Licensed Independent Social Worker in Clinical Practice. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she has previously served as a Department Chair in the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies, the Program Director for the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program, and the Program Director for the Human Services Counseling program. Dr. Shaler serves on her county’s alcohol and drug abuse commission. Please direct correspondence to lshaler@liberty.edu.

Dr. Lori Goss-Reaves (Indiana Wesleyan University) is a Professor of Social Work at Indiana Wesleyan University and the Director of Field Placement. Prior to joining the faculty at IWU, Dr. Goss-Reaves worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Family Service Society for twenty-four years. Her experiences serving families in the areas of child welfare, juvenile justice, intellectual disabilities and school based services taught her the importance of advocacy and the impact of trauma. Dr. Goss-Reaves is passionate about the welfare of vulnerable children. She serves as Chair of the Election Board and as a member of the Prevent Child Abuse Council. She also serves on the Board of the United Way and on the Child Protection Team. She is a member of NASW and serves on their Public Policy Committee. She is also a member of the North American Christians in Social Work. Please direct correspondence to Lori.Reaves@indwes.edu.

Dr. Jeffrey Boatner (Liberty University) is a core faculty member in the clinical mental health program at Liberty University. Prior to moving into this role, Dr. Boatner held numerous positions in academic administration and leadership. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia. Dr. Boatner has more than 10 years of clinical experience working in a variety of settings with diverse client populations. Prior to moving into academia, he served as the program manager for a therapeutic foster care program—a role which inspired his interest in researching and advocacy in the area of fatherhood and father engagement. A topic on which he has presented in national and international settings. Please direct correspondence to jdboatner@liberty.edu.

Dr. Steve Johnson, PhD, LPC, LMFT, ACS (Liberty University) is the Director of clinical training for the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies for Liberty University. He is experienced as both a faculty internship supervisor and clinical site supervisor. Dr. Johnson is a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and approved clinical supervisor. Please direct correspondence to sgjohnson2@liberty.edu.

Dr. Katherine Atkins (Northwestern University) is an assistant professor at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. She is also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Approved Clinical Supervisor, and holds her Professional Educator License in School Counseling. She specializes in child and adolescent mental health and has worked as a clinical mental health counselor and school counselor (K-12). Katie’s research interests include military advocacy, international counseling/study abroad, exemplary counseling practices, andragogy, and threat assessment model implementation. Please direct correspondence to katiematkins@gmail.com.


The authors would like to thank Donna Soliday-Roling, doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision and Teaching Assistant at Liberty University, for her transcription assistance.

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