Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help

by Psychology Roots

Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help

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About Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help

Scale Name

Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help

Author Details

Whittlesey, V., and Fischer, E., and Farina, A.

Translation Availability

Not Sure


The “Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help” scale is a psychometric instrument designed to evaluate an individual’s disposition toward engaging with professional psychological services. This scale is grounded in the recognition that psychological help-seeking behavior is influenced by various attitudinal factors, which can either facilitate or hinder the process of seeking appropriate mental health care. The development of this scale addresses a critical need within the field of psychology to quantitatively assess these attitudes, thereby enabling researchers and clinicians to better understand and address barriers to mental health treatment.

Theoretical Foundations

The scale is informed by theoretical frameworks that underscore the importance of attitudes in predicting behaviors, particularly the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991). According to this theory, attitudes towards a behavior, combined with subjective norms and perceived behavioral control, predict an individual’s intention to engage in that behavior. In the context of seeking professional psychological help, positive attitudes towards psychological services are expected to correlate with a higher likelihood of seeking such services when needed.

Scale Development

The original form of the “Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help” scale was developed by Fischer and Turner in 1970, and has since undergone various modifications to improve its reliability and validity. The version referenced in the current document is a shortened form, as discussed by Fischer and Farina (1995), designed to maintain the scale’s effectiveness while reducing the burden on respondents.

Content and Structure

The scale comprises ten statements that reflect different aspects of attitudes toward professional psychological help. Respondents are asked to rate their agreement with each statement on a four-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (Disagree) to 3 (Agree). The statements are designed to capture both positive and negative attitudes, with items such as “If I believed I was having a mental breakdown, my first inclination would be to get professional attention” indicating a positive attitude, and “The idea of talking about problems with a psychologist strikes me as a poor way to get rid of emotional conflicts” indicating a negative attitude.

To ensure accurate scoring, items 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10 are reverse scored. The total score is obtained by summing the ratings for all items, with higher scores signifying more favorable attitudes toward seeking professional help. This scoring method allows for the differentiation of individuals based on their overall predisposition to seek psychological assistance.

Application and Implications

The “Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Help” scale is used extensively in both research and clinical settings. In research, it facilitates the examination of factors that influence help-seeking behaviors across different populations, enabling the identification of demographic, cultural, and situational variables that may impact attitudes toward psychological services. Clinically, the scale can be used as a diagnostic tool to assess the likelihood of clients engaging with recommended therapeutic interventions.

Understanding attitudes toward seeking professional help is crucial for the development of effective mental health interventions and public health strategies. By identifying and addressing negative attitudes, mental health professionals can design more targeted outreach and educational programs aimed at reducing stigma and encouraging timely help-seeking behaviors. Furthermore, the scale’s ability to highlight differences in attitudes among various demographic groups supports the creation of culturally sensitive approaches to mental health care.

Administration, Scoring and Interpretation

  • Participant Information: Collect demographic information such as sex and race/ethnicity.
  • Instructions: Provide clear instructions to read each statement carefully and indicate the degree of agreement using the scale (0 = Disagree, 1 = Partly disagree, 2 = Partly agree, 3 = Agree).
  • Completion: Participants respond to statements reflecting their attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help.
  • Scoring: Reverse score items 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10. Sum the ratings to get a total score. Higher scores reflect more positive attitudes. Calculate mean scores for different demographic groups to analyze group differences

Reliability and Validity

The scales are validated through psychometric testing in different populations to ensure they measure what they intend to and provide consistent results across various contexts​

Available Versions



Whittlesey, V. (2001). Diversity activities for psychology. Allyn & Bacon.

Adapted from Whittlesey, V. (2001). Diversity activities for psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, and Fischer, E., and Farina, A. (1995). Attitudes toward seeking psychological professional help: A shortened form and considerations for research. Journal of College Student Development, 36, 368-373.

Important Link

Scale File:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What does a higher score indicate?
A1: Higher scores indicate more positive attitudes towards seeking professional psychological help.

Q2: How are the items scored?
A2: Items 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10 are reverse scored. The total score is the sum of all item ratings.

Q3: Can the scale be used to compare different demographic groups?
A3: Yes, mean scores can be calculated for different groups (e.g., by sex or ethnicity) to examine differences in attitudes.

Q4: Where can more detailed psychometric properties of the scale be found?
A4: Detailed information can be found in the references: Whittlesey, V. (2001) and Fischer, E., and Farina, A. (1995).

Q5: Is the scale suitable for all populations?
A5: The scale is designed to be general, but it’s important to consider cultural and contextual factors when interpreting the results.


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