Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Senn, Charlene,


Psychology, Clinical.




The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between the mental health profession and the lesbian and gay community. One-hundred and twenty-three gay men and 65 lesbians completed surveys concerning their attitudes toward the mental health profession and their experiences with it. An experiment was conducted in order to examine the influence of a therapist's gender and expressed attitude toward coming-out on the therapy experience of participants when the therapist's sexual orientation was unknown. Each participant read a description of a therapy situation in which the therapist's gender and attitudes toward coming-out (positive, neutral and negative) were manipulated. Evaluations of the therapist were measured on the Counselor Rating Form (Barak & LaCrosse, 1975), and the participants' comfort in discussing various personal issues were measured on the Counseling Concerns Scale (McDermott, Tyndall & Lichtenberg, 1989). The majority of participants reported some form of therapy experience but only 37.4% of participants with therapy experience reported working with a lesbian, gay or bisexual therapist. On average, participants reported a "moderate" level of satisfaction with heterosexual therapists or therapists with unknown sexual orientation. However, anecdotal reports by participants suggested a range of experiences from the overtly homophobic to positive and rewarding ones. Only lesbian participants reported significantly more satisfaction with lesbian, gay or bisexual therapists compared to heterosexual therapists or therapists with unknown sexual orientation. A therapist's gender was significantly more important to lesbian participants than a therapist's sexual orientation whereas sexual orientation was relatively more important to gay male participants than gender. Open-ended comments by participants suggested that a therapist's overall competence, experience and comfort with lesbians and gay men as well as similarity in cultural/racial background or sociopolitical views were at least as important as a therapist's gender or sexual orientation. Results from the experiment suggested that gay male participants' evaluations of a therapist's attractiveness, expertness and trustworthiness and lesbian participants' evaluations of a therapist's expertness and trustworthiness were significantly influenced by attitudinal similarity. Moreover, gay males reported significantly less comfort in discussing issues central to their sexuality if they disagreed with the hypothetical therapist's views on coming-out whereas lesbian participants were significantly less comfortable in discussing issues that were both central and peripheral to their sexuality. The results are examined in reference to previous research findings. The contributions as well as limitations of the current study are discussed. Implications for the practice of psychotherapy with lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are provided as well as some considerations for future research.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1996 .G52. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 57-07, Section: B, page: 4706. Adviser: Charlene Senn. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1996.