Hyland, Philip, McLaughlin, Chris, Boduszek, Daniel and Prentice, Garry (2011) Can The Theory of Planned Behaviour Predict Intentions to Participate in Counselling Among At-Risk Irish Government Employees. Proceedings of the British Psychological Society. ISSN 1754-8837

Background: Mental health services, such as counselling, are chronically underutilised despite the widespread occurrence of mental illness. Traditionally attempts to understand this phenomenon have considered only attitudes or associated social stigma. Few studies have employed the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) to understand why people avoid, or make use of, counselling services.

Aims: To compare the predictive utility of Ajzen’s (1991) TPB model and an alternative TPB model to explain intentions to participate in psychological counselling, and to examine for any gender difference in intentions.

Method: 259 members of a front-line, at-risk occupation for the Irish government completed a TPB-based questionnaire during a training seminar.

Results: Ajzen’s TPB model explained 47 per cent of variance in intentions, with all the main TPB variables significantly predicting intentions. An alternative TPB model, which split the PBC construct between its internal and external control components, explained an additional 10 per cent of variance in intentions. Intentions to participate in counselling were neutral-to-positive and no gender differences were identified.

Conclusions: The TPB model is an appropriate tool for the prediction of intentions to participate in counselling. The predictive utility of the TPB may well be improved by distinguishing internal and external control factors as separate predictor variables