Gays And Lesbians Often Receive Poor Or Inappropriate Treatment From Mental Health Care Providers, UW Researcher Finds

February 17, 1997

SEATTLE -- Gay men and lesbians often receive poor or inappropriate treatment when seeing mental health care providers, according to research presented Sunday, Feb. 16, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Nancy Nystrom, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington School of Social Work, presented findings of her national survey of 1,466 gay men and lesbians. She reported that one out of four of those who sought mental health services reported poor treatment.

The poor treatment described included refusal of the therapist to accept the client's sexual orientation, therapy seeking to change the client's sexual orientation, and inappropriate verbal, physical and even sexual behavior.

The study was undertaken, said Nystrom, because there has been little research on the perceptions of gay men and lesbians of their treatment in social service settings.

"Awareness of such attitudes of mental health practitioners is not new," said Nystrom. "But now we have asked those who use mental health services about their experiences and have documented their reports of poor treatment. It is time for the mental health industry to assure client safety by establishing total quality assurance systems, and to obtain more community input on service effectiveness."

Nystrom, a fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health, presented in the AAAS Society Impacts of Science and Engineering Section. Her research was sponsored by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals.

University of Washington

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