Marquette, UC–San Francisco study shows poor reporting on mental health interventions for LGBT community

June 17, 2016

MILWAUKEE — A Marquette University professor and a co-investigator at the University of California–San Francisco have published a study that shows researchers are not reporting sexual orientation and transgender identities in psychotherapy outcome studies for anxiety and depression. The authors say this poses significant challenges for determining whether or not these treatments work for LGBT individuals.

In the study, which was published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Dr. Nicholas Heck, assistant professor of psychology at Marquette, and Dr. Annesa Flentje, assistant professor at UC–San Francisco, reviewed more 2,400 journal articles, and identified 232 journal articles reporting the results of randomized controlled trials of psychological and behavioral interventions for anxiety and depression. Of the 232, only one reported participants' sexual orientation.

"This is significant for mental health professionals and how they treat members of the LGBT community," Heck said. "Omission of these data poses significant challenges for determining whether our existing interventions are effective for LGBT people. Further, that data could lead the field to identify treatments that may require modification to address the unique needs of this population."

"While this finding is disappointing, it reflects a larger problem in the behavioral sciences, and we hope the results of our systematic review will result in more researchers querying and reporting LGBT identities in their research. We also hope that LGBT patients will feel empowered to ask if the treatment they are getting has been shown to work for people in their community, as this is important in the era of precision medicine," Flentje said.

In the study, Heck and Flentje call for a change in the way researchers assess and report on participant sexual orientation when evaluating mental health interventions to better meet the needs of an already underserved population.

Read the comprehensive study on the American Psychological Association's website.