Severe shortage worldwide of qualified and skilled experts who can help may indicate career opportunities[i]

PHOENIX, Dec. 16, 2014 — More than one-third (34 percent) of Americans who seek counseling for mental health issues experience barriers that make it difficult or impossible to receive services, according to a recent survey from University of Phoenix® College of Social Sciences. This is down slightly compared to 18 months ago when 38 percent who ever sought counseling experienced barriers.

Of those who have experienced barriers to counseling, the majority (53 percent) said those barriers prevented them from receiving these services. The online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix in fall 2014.

"News coverage of high-profile incidents has put a spotlight on the topic of mental illness, but there are many individuals who suffer silently and may even feel further alienated by the extreme incidents covered in the news," said Dr. Constance St. Germain, executive dean for the College of Social Sciences at University of Phoenix. "The demand for mental health services is creating significant job opportunities in the field, particularly for trained mental health care professionals."

Acknowledgement of mental health issues

Most (97 percent) Americans believe mental health issues are at least somewhat of a serious problem in the United States, with nearly three-in-five (58 percent) considering them to be an extremely or very serious problem. According to the survey, more than three-in-five (62 percent) Americans report that they have personally experienced mental health issues. Those who report personally experiencing a mental health issue, say they have experienced the following*:

  • Anxiety: 42 percent
  • Grief: 38 percent
  • Mood disorder, such as depression: 37 percent
  • Marriage/relationship issues: 36 percent
  • Family relationship issues: 34 percent
  • Work-related issues: 24 percent
  • Trauma/post-traumatic stress: 14 percent
  • Addiction: 10 percent
  • Eating disorder: 7 percent
  • Other: 2 percent

Barriers to counseling

Fifty-two percent of those who experienced barriers to professional counseling are hindered by financial constraints and nearly a quarter (24 percent) by health insurance. However, notably, the number of respondents citing health insurance as a barrier to seeking treatment is down 12 percent points from 2013.

Other barriers include being unsure counseling would be effective (26 percent), feeling unsure of where to seek counseling (24 percent), not feeling comfortable with a counselor (27 percent), reluctance to face problems (22 percent), and the social stigma associated with mental health treatment (20 percent).


March, 2013

September, 2014

Financial barriers



Health insurance coverage



Not sure would be effective



Not sure where to go to seek counseling



Could not find a counselor with whom they felt comfortable



Reluctant to face problems



Social stigma



While social stigma ranks lower than other barriers, 20 percent of Americans who experience barriers still identify it as a reason, which is an increase from 15 percent in 2013. Younger Americans (33 percent of those in their 20s) are more likely to say social stigma kept them from seeking treatment.

"While many of the reasons cited as a barrier to professional counseling declined over the last 18 months, those seeking counseling are still experiencing them," said Dr. Stephen Sharp, associate dean for University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences. "Another barrier to seeking professional counseling involves cultural constraints that create a taboo for going outside the limits of the culture for help."�

Reasons for seeking counseling

Twenty-eight percent of Americans say they have ever received professional counseling. Of those who have sought counseling, the most common reason is mood disorder such as depression (51 percent), followed by anxiety (46 percent), marriage and relationship issues (43 percent), family issues (41 percent), and trauma/PTSD (31 percent).*

Other reasons Americans say they have sought counseling:

  • Child behavior issues and parenting help: 22 percent
  • Personality Disorder: 21 percent
  • Addiction: 18 percent
  • Eating disorders: 13 percent
  • Work-related issues: 13 percent
  • Behavior modification, such as quitting smoking: 11 percent

Forty-four percent of Americans say they would seek counseling if they or a family member had a mental health concern in the future, 42 percent are unsure, but would be open to counseling, 8 percent are unlikely to seek counseling and only 6 percent say they would never seek counseling.

Careers in counseling and mental health

According to the 2012 estimates, 43 million U.S. adults over the age of 18 exhibited mental illness, which accounts for close to 20 percent (18.6 percent) of all U.S. adults.[1] This demand for services is driving significant job growth. In the United States, employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.[i]

The survey reveals that nearly three-in-ten (29 percent) working adults who have never worked in a mental health-related field are interested or would consider these careers.

"There are too few mental health professionals to meet the growing worldwide need. Many areas of our country are experiencing a shortage of professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers. The human impact as well as the costs of mental illnesses can be staggering," added Sharp.

Sharp offers the following tips for those interested in pursuing careers in these fields:

  1. Do your homework to find the right program to fit your career goals and areas of interest.
  2. Explore geographic areas identified as having mental health provider shortages.
  3. Conduct an online search of the State Professional Boards for license laws and requirements for licensure in your state.

For more information about University of Phoenix degree programs, visit


*Percentages reflect self-reported data regarding experience with mental health issues.

Survey Methodology

The 2014 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix September 25-29, 2014, among 2,031 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The 2013 survey was conducted online March 22-26, 2013 among 2,130 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact


About University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences


University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences offers programs in human services, psychology and counseling. The college"�s curriculum seeks to empower individuals who wish to enhance their skills for career entry or advancement in the helping professions. Curriculum is regularly updated to meet accreditation and/or national and state professional standards. University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences faculty members are experienced professionals, holding advanced degrees. Many sit on state licensure and accreditation boards as well as professional committees. For more information, visit




University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor"�s, master"�s, and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit

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[1] National Institute of Mental Health: Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults

[2] World Health Organization: Mental health atlas 2011