Psychological distress, help-seeking, and perceived barriers to psychological treatment among Australian parents

Brit Tapp, Milena Gandy*, Vincent J. Fogliati, Eyal Karin, Rhiannon J. Fogliati, Carol Newall, Lauren McLellan, Nick Titov, Blake F. Dear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Parental psychological distress is an influential predictor of maladaptive parenting practices, negative outcomes in children, and poorer outcomes of parenting programs. Despite these negative outcomes, treatment engagement among parents appears to be low. This study aimed to explore Australian parents’ history of help-seeking behaviour and perceived barriers to psychological treatment for their own and their children's psychological wellbeing. Method: A sample of 2,555 Australian parents completed an online survey exploring psychological distress, help-seeking, perceived barriers to treatment for parents and their children, and interest in an online parental wellbeing course. Results: Parents reported high levels of personal psychological distress (70.4% in the moderate to very high ranges) and high rates of emotional and behavioural difficulties in their children (34.2% in abnormal range). Parents were more likely to seek informal types of help-seeking, such as advice from family and friends. They were less likely to enlist formal types of help seeking, such as psychotherapy. The most commonly endorsed barriers to seeking treatment for parents and their children included lack of time and money and the belief that mental health difficulties were insufficient to warrant treatment. However, parents expressed a high level of interest in a free online parental wellbeing course. Conclusion: The findings highlight the need for effective and accessible psychological treatments to target the psychological wellbeing of parents and their dependent children. Early evidence suggests that an online parental wellbeing course may offer an acceptable alternative to face-to-face treatment that may overcome many barriers reported in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-121
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • barriers
  • children
  • mental health
  • online
  • parenting
  • psychological distress


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