Pathways to Mental Health Services and Perceptions about the Effectiveness of Treatment

Sirry M. Alang, Donna D. McAlpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The gap between need and effective treatment for mental health problems continues to be a challenge for researchers and policymakers. Much of the attention has been on differences in treatment rates, with insufficient attention to variation in pathways that people take into treatment. Individuals may choose to seek help but may also be substantially influenced by others or coerced into care. The chances of each type of pathway are influenced by social characteristics and may shape perceptions of effectiveness of care. This paper investigates variation in pathways into care and perceived effectiveness of care. We also examine whether choice or coercion into care are associated with whether individuals perceive care as effective and if severity of illness moderates this relationship. We use data from the 2010–2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (N = 10,020). Persons who independently sought mental health care were more likely to rate treatment as effective compared to persons ordered into care. Among people with severe mental illnesses, the probability of rating treatment as effective is lowest among those who were ordered into care. Entry into mental health care is not sufficient for closing the treatment gap if coerced care leads to poorer quality outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-407
Number of pages20
JournalSociety and Mental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Sociological Association 2018.


  • help-seeking
  • mental health services
  • services utilization
  • treatment


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