Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Upton, Thomas


Negative attitudes and stigma associated with mental illness have a profound impact on individuals who experience them. Researchers have defined stigma as the attribution of a deviant characteristic to members of a particular group. Persons with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) face many difficulties that impact their full participation in social life. Although attitudinal reactions to individuals with SPMI have improved considerably over the last few decades, there are still areas for improvement. Limited research has been conducted to evaluate attitudes and stigma associated with individuals with SPMI among human service professionals-in-training (HSPs). For this study HSPs were defined as individuals entering into social service, mental health, and substance abuse professions. Further, there have only been a few published studies in attitude research that utilized randomized vignettes portraying individuals with two different mental health diagnoses. Data collection occurred in counselor education and similar programs at many universities. A total of 79 participants (20 males and 58 females) took part in this study. Recruitment efforts reached HSPs at 27 universities throughout the contiguous United States. For this study, participants were asked to respond to self-report surveys and to one of two written vignettes to quantify their attitudes toward the individuals depicted in them. The two vignettes described an individual with a mental illness and differed in the diagnosis attributed to the individual: schizophrenia spectrum disorder in one vignette and generalized anxiety disorder in the other vignette. Results indicated that although there were slight mean differences between the two groups of participants, the differences were not statically significant, t (77) = 0.63, p =53. The Attribution Questionnaire-27 (AQ-27; Corrigan, 2012) gathered overall attitudes towards mental illness. The Mental Health Provider Stigma Inventory (MHPSI; Kennedy, Abell, & Mennicke, 2014) was used to collect data on attitudes, behaviors, and social pressure impacting stigma towards individuals who have SPMI. Data collected with these two scales yielded evidence to indicate that participants held stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with SPMI. Data gathered suggested that graduate students in rehabilitation counselor education programs expressed fewer stigmatizing attitudes than students from other programs. This result was seen across both measures. Data were collected on frequency of contact with persons with mental illness to evaluate the association between contact frequency and knowledge of mental illness and negative attitudes. Demographic data gathered included gender, age, professional training, and number of years of work experience in a counseling-related role. Further, a hierarchical multiple regression was used to determine which order of predictors were statistically significant to the outcome measure. Prior literature suggest that prior contact and familiarity scores playing a more important role in predicting the outcome variable (AQ-27) then the demographic information. The first model was statistically significant F(6,72) =3.64, p= .003 and explained 23% of the variance in the dependent variable (AQ-27 total scores). After the input of these demographic factors the second step included LOF and SADP- PCF-R scores. After entry of the second step the overall variance was 28%. The second model was statically significant F(8,70) = 3.39 p = 002 and explained an additional 4% variance in the model. In the final adjusted model, four out of the seven predictor variables were statistically significant. A small pilot study consisting of rehabilitation counseling professionals was used to develop the methodologies for this study. The primary limitation of the primary study was the sample size. Further details of the methodology used and limitations of this particular study will be described in subsequent chapters. Implications of this study and suggested future research are proposed.




This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.