from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
The study, "Therapist Qualities Preferred by Sexual-Minority Individuals," was published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, (Vol. 43, No. 1, 32-49, 2006)
The researchers began their report by noting that "Research has found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals utilize mental health services at rates higher than the general population."
They also note that therapists in general have indicated they received little training in treating LGB individuals. In addition, "LGB individuals have a history of being subjected to not only inadequate, but also harmful psychological treatments." According to the authors, Shidlo and Schroeder (2002) surveyed 202 sexual minority individuals and found that the "vast majority of participants reported no change in their sexual orientation as a result of treatment. Instead, many of these individuals described lasting harm from the therapy, including depressed mood and increased negative views about homosexuality."
Burckell and Goldfried surveyed the attitudes of 42 "non-heterosexual adults," recruited from Stony Brook and from LGB groups in New York. Seventy percent came from psychology classes and 30% from outside groups.
Of those surveyed, the majority of men claimed a gay identity (69%) while 54% of the women said they were bisexual.
Various questionnaires were administered to measure internalized homophobia and to measure what they valued in the therapists who treated them.
Cluster analysis was employed to measure what characteristics were most important or least important in a therapist. The authors note: "In sum, these findings suggest that regardless of the nature of the presenting problem, therapists should increase their general awareness of LGB individuals and adopt a stance of openness to LGB issues rather than making assumptions concerning how the individual's sexual identity is related to his or her concerns. ... These findings also indicate that therapists need to augment their basic therapeutic skills with some additional knowledge when a client's sexual orientation is salient to the presenting problem. In particular, therapists need to exhibit LGB-affirming behaviors and possess a knowledge concerning issues that are unique to LGB individuals."
The authors noted certain limitations to their study: selecting subjects from a college environment, where the setting provides more safeguards for gay behaviors; small sample size; and the need to conduct more research on bisexuals and transgender clients.