Help-seeking theory postulates that people follow a series of predictable steps to seek help for their inadequacies, it is a series of well-ordered and purposeful cognitive and behavioral steps, each leading to specific types of solutions.

Help-seeking theory falls into two categories where some consider similarity in the process' (e.g. Cepeda-Benito & Short, 1998) while others consider it as dependent upon the problem (e.g. Di Fabio & Bernaud, 2008). In general help-seeking behaviors are dependent upon three categories, attitudes (beliefs and willingness) towards help-seeking, intention to seek help, and actual help-seeking behavior.[1]


Help-seeking behavior is divided into two types, adaptive behavior and non-adaptive behavior. It is adaptive when exercised to overcome a difficulty and it depends upon the person's recognition, insight and dimension of the problem and resources for solving the same, this is valued as an active strategy. It is non-adaptive when the behavior persists even after understanding and experiencing the problem solving mechanism and when used for avoidance. Dynamic barriers in seeking help can also affect active process (e.g.: culture, ego, classism, etc. ). Nelson-Le Gall (1981) distinguished between instrumental help-seeking, which she regarded as being essential for learning, and passive dependency.[2]

Public healthEdit

Help-seeking behavior in public health is divided into following steps:[3]

  • Self-care: Self-evaluation and self-administration for the physical or psychological problem.
  • Social networks: Seeking information to eradicate the problem through community resources.
  • Helpers: Seeking help from informal (priest, holistic healers, pharmacists, etc.) and formal helpers (physicians, psychologists, social workers, etc.) related to the field.
  • Gatekeepers: They are incoming form of help from the community by understanding the presence of problem and they are resourceful members of a community who can link/direct the person in need with potential sources of help.

Psychological investigationsEdit

Help-seeking has received a lot of research attention in academic contexts.[4] Karabenick & Newman, 2006[5] Help-seeking behaviors are often linked to goal-orientation theory, with mastery-oriented students being more likely to manifest adaptive strategies and performance-oriented students being more likely to manifest non-adaptive strategies (Ames, 1983; Butler, 1999, 2006; Hashim, 2004; Ryan, Gheen, & Midgley, 1998). Several researchers have found that women have significantly more positive attitudes than men towards seeking help from professional psychologists.[6] Shea & Yeh, 2008[7] When facing need, students with high self-efficacy tend to manifest high help-seeking behavior, whereas students with low self-efficacy are, under similar circumstances, more reluctant to seek help (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2003; Nelson & Ketelhut, 2008; Paulsen & Feldman, 2005; Pintrich & Zusho, 2007; Tan et al., 2008). In 2011 it was reexamined and peer reviewed that affiliation cues can prime people to seek help in closed group contexts.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gulliver, Griffiths, Christensen & Brewer, 2012
  2. ^ Nelson-LeGall, S. (1981). "Help-seeking: An understudied problem-solving skill in children". Developmental Review, 1, 224-246.
  3. ^ T. Laine Scales, Calvin L. Streeter, H. Stephen Cooper; Rural Social Work: Building and Sustaining Community Capacity, 2013; John Wiley & Sons
  4. ^ Karabenick, S. A. (Ed.) (1998). Strategic help-seeking: Implications for learning and teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  5. ^ Karabenick, S. A., & Newman, R. S. (Eds.) (2006). Help-seeking in academic settings: Goals, groups, and contexts. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  6. ^ Leong, F. T. L., & Zachar, P. (1999). "Gender and opinions about mental illness as predictors of attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help". British Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 27(1), 123-132.
  7. ^ Shea, M., & Yeh, C. J. (2008). "Asian American Students' cultural values, stigma, and relational self- construal: correlates of attitudes toward professional help seeking". Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 30, 157-172.
  8. ^ Rubin, M. (2011). "Social affiliation cues prime help-seeking intentions". Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 43, 138-141.

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