Barriers to seeking mental health services among adolescents in military families

Sara J. Becker*, Rebecca R. Swenson, Christianne Esposito-Smythers, Andrea M. Cataldo, Anthony Spirito

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Military families with adolescents experience high levels of stress associated with parental deployment, but many of these families do not seek or utilize mental health services. The current qualitative study was designed to better understand barriers to mental health treatment experienced by adolescents in military families. Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with military adolescents (n = 13), military (nonenlisted) parents (n = 12), and mental health service providers who treat adolescents in military families (n = 20). Discussions primarily explored barriers to seeking treatment, with supplemental questions assessing the ideal elements of mental health services for this population. Seven barriers to engaging in mental health services were identified: 4 internal (confidentiality concerns, stigma, ethic of self-reliance, lack of perceived relevance) and 3 external (time and effort concerns, logistical concerns, financial concerns). Challenges engaging military adolescents in mental health services are discussed and several recommendations are offered for service providers attempting to work with this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-513
Number of pages10
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014


  • Adolescents
  • Barriers
  • Mental health
  • Military

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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