Date of Conferral
David M. Segal
The role of school-based mental health counselors (SBMHCs) is essential in addressing the mental health needs of U.S. adolescents. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine SBMHCs' perceptions about factors that affect the use of SBMH services by adolescents from a school district in Connecticut. SBMHCs were chosen for this study because they provide direct mental health services to adolescents. Mechanic's general theory of help-seeking provided the framework to interpret research findings using the 10 interrelated constructs. Fifteen SBMHCs participated in face-to-face semistructured interviews. Colaizzi's 6-steps-guide was used to organize, code, and identify common themes. The following themes were identified: (a) there was no uniform process to identify and refer a student for services, which makes it time-consuming for SBMHCs to identify students in need; (b) there was a lack of established trusting relationship between adolescents and SBMHCs; (c) adolescents with persistent truancy at school had issues associated with poverty, housing, and family security that negatively affect access to use SBMH services; (d) financial resources were needed to support schools to hire more qualified professionals, create programs, and assist families of adolescents who may need SBMH services. Barriers to the use of SBMH services were identified as the lack of parental engagement, SBMHCs time constraints, and social stigma. Study findings may raise awareness to mental health access factors and barriers faced by adolescents and SBMH professionals and help improve access to critical SBMHCs and use of mental health services as needed.