Research led by our Director of Psychology exploring adapted group therapy for sexual minority adults
Dr Alister Baird
2 Aug 2023
Sexual minority individuals, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or queer (LGBTQ+), are significantly more likely to develop common mental health difficulties including anxiety and depression. Key factors contributing to this increased risk of poor mental health among LGBTQ+ communities are experiences of stigma, discrimination and prejudice which are still highly prevalent even in relatively liberal Western societies. Current therapeutic options and treatments for LGBTQ+ people could be improved, for example by having additional experience and understanding of working with LGBTQ+ communities and seeking to address some of the ‘minority stress’ factors that make this group of people more vulnerable to problems like depression or anxiety disorders (Israel et al., 2008).
Stigma (e.g., homophobia, transphobia) against LGBTQ+ people not only make them more vulnerable to mental health difficulties but it can also reduce access to evidence-based psychological treatments and services (Hambrook et al., 2022). For example, many LGBTQ+ people report that they have experienced discrimination within the health system itself and so are less likely to seek help when they need it in future. It is therefore critical that treatments are made more accessible for this population and adapted to meet their specific needs.
Whilst progress has been made recently to address this, and affirmative therapeutic approaches for LGBTQ+ people have been increasing over the previous decades (O'Shaughnessy & Speir, 2018), current evidence suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals are still very dissatisfied with their experience within mental health services (e.g., Foy et al., 2019).
Using cognitive behavioural therapy informed techniques, David and colleagues designed and evaluated a novel LGBTQ+ wellbeing group therapy for sexual minority adults in an English NHS psychological therapies service. The group consists of 8 sessions and over the initial eight cycles of the group 78 people took part. Over half the people who completed the group required no additional treatment for their mental health difficulties after the sessions had finished. There were also significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety and functional impairment. The group is currently in its fourteenth cycle and it is now an established treatment offering in the NHS service where David works. The hope is that other services will start to adapt their standard treatment offerings to make them more inclusive and accessible for LGBTQ+ people who often fear stigma and discrimination from treatment providers.
David said, “As an out and proud gay man I’ve been interested in LGBTQ+ mental health since the very start of my career in psychology. I am incredibly proud of the work that we have done to create a unique treatment offer for LGBTQ+ patients. I feel privileged and humbled to have been witness to so many of the stories that patients have shared about their struggles with their mental health and the ongoing impact of structural LGBTQ+ stigma and minority stress.”
Uvia and Bloomfield Health are committed to diversity and inclusivity and all the team want to send our congratulations to David and everyone involved in the study. A link to the full article:
‘Group intervention for sexual minority adults with common mental health problems: preliminary evaluation’