counseling attitudes, mental health stigma, Polynesian Americans


There is a paucity of research on the mental health of Pacific Islanders living in the U.S., including those of Polynesian descent. This study examined coping strategies, attitudes towards seeking mental health counseling, public and self-stigma towards seeking professional help, and psychological adjustment among 638 Polynesian Americans. On average, participants held neither favorable nor unfavorable attitudes towards seeking professional psychological help, but Polynesian American men endorsed moderate self-stigma about mental illness and Polynesian American women endorsed high levels of public stigma about mental illness. Women showed relatively more favorable attitudes than men about seeking help from professional mental health providers. Participants reported benefiting from culturally congruent practices for coping with distress (accepting, reframing, striving, family support, and religiosity/spirituality) much more than seeking assistance from private emotional outlets (e.g., therapy) or avoidance and detachment. Findings indicate that mental health professionals will need to build effective cross-cultural bridges and culturally adapt services to address concerns among Polynesian Americans.

Original Publication Citation

Allen, G. E., Kim, B., Smith, T. B., & Hafoka, O. (2016). Counseling attitudes and stigma among Polynesian Americans. The Counseling Psychologist, 44, 6-27.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Sage Publications




David O. McKay School of Education


Counseling Psychology and Special Education

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor