What is it about?

Even unintentional experiences of discrimination in talking therapy can be harmful for clients. This is the first published study using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to illuminate how gay cis men experience and make sense of such unhelpful incidents in talking therapy. We found that such incidents may affect clients' relationships with themselves and other people.

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Why is it important?

Our findings highlight some implications for anti-discriminatory therapeutic practice. They suggest that a safe, empathic, non-judgmental therapeutic relationship can be vital for gay cis men clients. They show that discrimination in talking therapy can harm the relationship of clients with themselves and other people. It therefore proposes that such incidents, even when not intentional, should be addressed and worked through with the therapist. Our findings can also contribute to important policy changes. Based on the accounts of our participants, we recommend the provision of reflective spaces for exploring unconscious bias, as well as training on inclusivity and anti-discriminatory practice in training institutions and counselling, psychotherapy and psychological therapy services. Furthermore, our findings suggest the importance of the provision of social support networks in counselling, psychotherapy and psychological therapy services for clients who have experienced discrimination in therapy.

Perspectives

Analysing and discussing the lived experiences of the participants with the co-author helped me enhance my empathic understanding towards my gay cis men clients. This made me more aware of my own wider biases about sexual/affectional, gender and relationship diverse people. I have also become more aware about our role and responsibility as therapists -but also as humans- to address, challenge and counteract discriminatory experiences in society. I hope you find this article as insightful and that it can stimulate and enhance your empathy as well.

Mike Televantos
City University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “I wasn’t feeling like I belonged in my skin”: How self‐identified gay men in the UK experience unhelpful incidents in talking therapy 1, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, July 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/capr.12562.
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