Confirmation of precounselling expectations: Does expectation valence moderate changes in state anxiety?
Despite considerable research attention, it remains unclear whether failing to meet clients' precounselling expectations causes increases in state anxiety. Empirical support for such a relationship is equivocal and it has been suggested that the treatment of expectations as a unitary construct and a lack of theory have given rise to this situation. The present study measured pre- and post-session expectations and anxiety in a sample of clients attending a university counselling service. The Expectations About Counselling questionnaire (EAC) and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory — Form Y (STAI-Y) were used as dependent measures. Self-Regulation theory and the Attentional Bias model of anxiety provided a theoretical framework from which the experimental hypothesis was drawn. Affective valence of expectations (positive vs. negative) was assessed as well as whether confirmation or disconfirmation occurred. As predicted, the results failed to support a main effect for disconfirmation on elevations in state anxiety, but the moderating effect of expectation valence was observed. The theoretical and methodological implications of the results are briefly discussed.