Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Marshall Fine

Advisor Role

Dr. Kirstin Trotter

Second Advisor

Dr. Gary Cameron


A core issue of couple therapy is the evident delay in help-seeking behaviours among distressed couples. This study had two main objectives. The first objective was to examine if there is a negative stigmatization associated with attendance at couple therapy and whether this is related to a person's willingness to attend. The second objective was to examine whether couple therapy is perceived as a resource to be used once distress levels are severe and other options have been exhausted. This study used a survey methodology with qualitative components and participants consisted mainly of graduate students enrolled in helping profession programs. Overall attitudes toward seeking marital therapy were found to be significantly related to willingness to seek help. Those who were less willing to seek help for a relationship issue had less positive attitudes toward help seeking. This finding was consistent across the 4 subscales of the attitudes toward help seeking scale (ASPPH-MT), including stigma tolerance (r = .38, p < .00). The qualitative components of this study illustrated elements of stigma of couple therapy attendance, which addressed the first objective of this study, as well as a stigma of having relationship difficulties and needing external help to resolve these conflicts. It was found that significantly more people indicated that above moderate to severe distress is necessary prior to seeking couple therapy than people who indicated that mild to moderate distress is necessary (x2(1, N = 106) = 77.396, p <.001) which addressed the second objective of this study. Overall, in this sample, the findings provided important clarification for two factors: (i) that there is a perception that couple therapy attendance is stigmatized and one's sensitivity to that stigma is related to willingness to seek help and (ii) that couple therapy and attendance is a resource for those who are significantly distressed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons