Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) clients may form better alliances with therapists who have similar sexual orientations, according to a new study. This new study done by researchers at the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University examined gay and bisexual men in therapy who had therapists of the same sexual orientation. Trends found in the research may be applicable to the LGB community at large. Thomas I. Stracuzzi, lead author of the study, said that when LGB clients share the same sexual orientation with their therapists, they may achieve better treatment outcomes because the alliance developed between the client and therapist begins with identification and trust. Stracuzzi said, “From this perspective, LGB counselors may be more likely than their heterosexual colleagues to have the knowledge and attitudes associated with successful clinical work with LGB clients and the possibility that LGB clients may fare best with counselors who are LGB or are perceived to be LGB.” Additionally, some experts believe that cultural diversity, including universal-diverse orientation (UDO), self-reported or perceived, provides a common platform from which a LGB client and their therapist can develop a strong alliance. “For some LGB clients, it can be especially meaningful to work with a counselor who also is LGB,” said Stracuzzi. He added, “However, counselor disclosure may inhibit client exploration of issues related to sexual identity due to clients’ assumptions about how their counselor’s sexual orientation might influence the counselor’s understanding of and reactions to the client. For example, a gay male client may mistakenly assume that his gay male counselor understands aspects of his experience due to their shared sexual identity.”
Stracuzzi and his colleagues interviewed 83 male LGB clients. Of the therapists who worked with the men, some told their clients their sexual orientation, while others did not. The researchers discovered that the clients whose therapists revealed their orientation experienced a smooth, strong, working alliance. But the clients who assumed the sexual orientation of their therapists did not form strong alliances. The team added, “However, findings do suggest that LGB-affirming counselors should be aware that clients do not always accurately perceive their counselor’s orientation and that perceived similarity—whether accurate or not—may negatively affect the therapeutic process.”
Stracuzzi, Thomas I., Jonathan J. Mohr, and Jairo N. Fuertes. “Gay and Bisexual Male Clients’ Perceptions of Counseling: The Role of Perceived Sexual Orientation Similarity and Counselor Universal-diverse Orientation.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 58.3 (2011): 299-309. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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