The Effects of Group Counseling and Self-Affirmation on Stigma and Group Relationship Development: A Replication and Extension

Group counseling
Personal values

Seidman, A. J., Wade, N. G., & Geller, J. (2022). The effects of group counseling and self-affirmation on stigma and group relationship development: A replication and extension. Journal of counseling psychology, 69(5), 701–710.


Andrew Seidman

University of Pittsburgh

Nathaniel G. Wade

Iowa State University

Jason Geller

Rutgers University


October 2022



The stigma of seeking counseling and negative attitudes about counseling are primary barriers to its use. In the only known study examining the utility of attending a group counseling session to ameliorate stigma (no control group), participation was associated with reductions in self-stigma (Wade et al., 2011). Self-affirmation interventions have shown promising results in reducing stigma and promoting positive expectations about counseling, but no research has examined its effects on a counseling session. In the present, two-part study, 172 college students who had previously completed an online screening survey, including measures of stigma, participated in a single session of group counseling at a mental health clinic. Upon arrival, participants completed a self-affirmation intervention before viewing psychoeducation (n = 66; 12 groups) or only viewed psychoeducation (n = 72; 14 groups); both groups then completed a session of group counseling. After, participants completed these same measures along with measures of group relationships. The remaining participants (n = 34; 7 groups) viewed psychoeducation and completed the same stigma measures before being informed of randomization to the waitlist-control condition. Our results replicate and extend findings from Wade et al. (2011): completing a single session of group counseling reduced self-stigma and promoted positive attitudes toward counseling. Further, completing self-affirmation reduced post-session perceptions of public stigma. Self-affirmation had no impact on group relationships. Overall, findings suggest the utility of offering a “try-out” session of group counseling as a stigma-reduction intervention; preceding with a brief self-affirmation intervention provides further benefits by reducing perceptions of public stigma.