The myth of the safe space: Sexual orientation disparities in therapist effectiveness

This article was originally published here

J Couns Psychol. 2021 Oct 14. doi: 10.1037/cou0000584. Online ahead of print.


Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective on a broad level (e.g., Wampold & Imel, 2015); however, a growing body of literature has revealed that some therapists have outcome inequities within their caseloads. These inequities have been observed on the basis of social identities including race (see Imel et al., 2011, for example) and gender measured on the binary (Owen et al., 2009). However, despite the great need for further research on sexual minority populations in psychotherapy, this phenomenon has yet to be explored on the basis of sexual orientation (i.e., if a disparity exists within-therapist caseloads between queer-identified and heterosexual clients). The present study was comprised of a sample of 1,725 clients treated by 50 therapists at a university counseling center (17.7% of the sample endorsed a sexual minority status). Multilevel modeling was used to analyze data from the Behavioral Health Measure-20 (BHM-20; Kopta & Lowry, 2002). The results indicated that clients’ sexual orientation status was not significantly associated with any of the BHM-20 subscales or with the Global Mental Health Scale (GMH). Of interest was that therapists varied in the extent to which their clients’ symptoms and GMH improved and how that improvement varied by client sexual orientation status. Thus, attention must be paid not only to which therapists are more and less effective overall, but also to the specifics of which clients (and the social identities those clients hold) are improving while under their care. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID:34647766 | DOI:10.1037/cou0000584