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Research bites

A selection of current research from our CPR journal to enhance your LGBTQIA+ knowledge

(To access the full text of all articles please log into this website first)

An initial study of transgender people's experiences of seeking and receiving counselling or psychotherapy in the UK

This mixed methods study investigated transgender people's experiences of seeking and receiving counselling or psychotherapy outside of gender identity clinics. Participants sought counselling for common psychological concerns, as well as gender identity and coming out issues.

Fear of discrimination and exploring gender for the first time were significant barriers to seeking help. Participants reported mixed experiences of counselling, but valued a therapeutic relationship in which they felt affirmed, listened to and understood. 

The findings show the importance of recognising the potential vulnerability transgender clients experience and suggest therapists develop greater awareness, knowledge and competence regarding working with this client group.

Clinician self-disclosure or clinician self-concealment? Lesbian, gay and bisexual mental health practitioners’ experiences of disclosure in therapeutic relationships

This qualitative study explores the perspectives and experiences of eight self-identifying LGB clinicians who have self-disclosed or concealed their sexual orientation when working with NHS clients.

It found that self-disclosure could have enhancing effects by removing barriers within the therapeutic relationship. It could have a powerfully positive effect on the client, increase the therapist’s credibility and affirm their sense of self.

On the other hand, concealment of their sexual orientation could have a negative impact because therapists did not feel genuine or authentic. It also increased the psychological and cognitive burden on the therapist because they had to ‘hold back’ and expend a lot of effort in keeping their sexuality hidden.

This suggests additional difficulties that therapist self-disclosure may pose points to the unique and contextually dependent factors involved.

The real and ideal experiences of what culturally competent counselling or psychotherapy service provision means to lesbian, gay and bisexual people

This qualitative study explores what culturally competent counselling or psychotherapy looks like from the perspective of LGB people from Australia.

Participants emphasised the importance of counselling services creating safes space for LGB people, such as LGB affirmative statements on their websites, rainbow flags or pamphlets about LGB people or community groups in their waiting rooms, and inclusive language on intake forms. Participants perceived practitioners as more culturally competent if they demonstrated inclusive intention, awareness of heteronormativity, knowledge about issues impacting LGB people and openness to diversity.

Participants also perceived younger or LGB counsellors to be more culturally competent than older and heterosexual counsellors.

Researching same-sex sexualities and psychodynamic psychotherapy

The field of psychodynamic psychotherapy has been tainted by a reputation for pathologising and attempting to ‘cure’ LGB clients and for discriminating against LGB candidates wanting to train as psychodynamic psychotherapists. A mixed-method study (2014 -2021) aimed to find out how UK psychodynamic therapists working today understood and worked clinically with LGB clients, including their perceptions on the role of psychodynamic training institutions in preparing clinicians for clinical practice with this client group.

A self-completion questionnaire was distributed to 1,403 registrants of the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC). 287 registrants returned valid responses — a 20% response rate. Mostly descriptive statistics were used to examine the quantitative data. Thirty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with practitioners, with 10 main themes emerging from the qualitative data.

Findings suggested that psychodynamic therapists were well informed about the ways in which societal stigma, family rejection, internalised homophobia, anti-LGB discrimination and the ‘coming out’ process contributed to the anxiety, depression and relationship conflicts reported by LGB clients in therapy. However, psychodynamic therapists appeared less informed about specific aspects of LGB sex lives and norms, particularly relating to sexual practices and relationship diversity. Most psychodynamic therapists tended to hold predominantly heteronormative and monosexual views on love, relationships and sex.

Overall, most practitioners appeared to think that pathological parent-child relationships caused same-sex sexual orientation, despite empirical evidence showing that these types of explanations hold little scientific weight. Psychodynamic therapists’ clinical work with LGB clients oscillated between good practice in line with existing psychotherapy guidelines for this client group and practice that was biased, out-dated and potentially harmful. While most practitioners no longer accepted same-sex desires as an indicator of pathology or perversion, such thinking did not appear to be fully reflected in broader professional trainings or institutions. Therapists’ accounts indicated that many psychodynamic trainings did not adequately address LGB-specific issues and that anti-LGB discrimination persisted at some training institutions (e.g. LGB colleagues perceived as less likely to be promoted to positions of influence).

The findings point to the need to broaden the psychodynamic curriculum on sexual orientation to more fully account for LGB lives and norms. UK psychodynamic training organisations must also continue their efforts to create a learning and professional environment that is non-discriminatory to LGB individuals. The research provides a strong evidence base on which the UK psychodynamic psychotherapy profession can reappraise its approach to theory, technique and training in relation to same-sex sexual orientation.

BACP Annual Research Conference 2022

Striving for equality, diversity and inclusion in research, practice and policy.

This year's Research Conference will be a hybrid in-person and online event on 19 and 20 May 2022 with our co-hosts Abertay University in Dundee.

The in-person event will begin on Thursday 19 May 2022 with a panel discussion session plus a variety of presentations and workshops, followed by the conference dinner in the evening. Online participants will join on Friday 20 May 2020 for a full day programme.

Confirmed keynote presentations:

  • Professor Heidi Levitt (University of Massachusetts), Healing from sexual minority and intersectional stigma events: What therapists should know
  • Dr Dwight Turner on intersections of otherness and privilege in counselling and psychotherapy

Booking information will be available soon via the link below.