Marquette, UCSF Study Shows Poor Reporting on Mental Health Interventions for LGBT Community

By Scott Maier

A new study from Marquette University and UC San Francisco has found that researchers are not reporting sexual orientation and transgender identities in psychotherapy outcome studies for anxiety and depression, which the authors say poses significant challenges for determining whether or not these treatments work for LGBT people.

In the study, which was published June 16, 2016, by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, co-investigators Nicholas Heck, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Marquette, and Annesa Flentje, PhD, assistant professor at UCSF, reviewed more 2,400 journal articles. Among those, they identified 232 papers reporting the results of randomized controlled trials of psychological and behavioral interventions for anxiety and depression. Of the 232, only one reported participants’ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) status.

“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,” Flentje said. “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.”

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.

Other contributors to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology study were Lucas Mirabito, a psychology graduate student, and Kelly LeMaire, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate, both at Marquette University; and Nicholas Livingston, a psychology graduate student at the University of Montana.

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic and Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee, Wis., that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. Our mission includes the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others. A Marquette education offers students a virtually unlimited number of paths and destinations and prepares them for the world by asking them to think critically about it. Along the way, we ask one thing of every student: Be The Difference.

About UCSF

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.