Sexual Minorities Responding to Sexual Orientation Distress: Examining 33 Methods and the Effects of Sexual Identity Labelling and Theological Viewpoint

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Spirituality in Clinical Practice


American Psychological Association

Publication Date



Utilizing a sample of 281 sexual minorities who reported having had or currently experiencing distress about their sexual orientation, we examined participants’ ratings of perceived helpfulness of 33 methods for addressing this distress found in the literature. We examined these methods for both the full sample, between those who did or did not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other (LGB +), and between three theologically different groups: theologically conservative (TC), theologically nonconservative (TNC), and nontheological (NT). Findings from the full sample indicated methods that promoted acceptance of or were neutral toward same-sex sexuality were consistently perceived to be helpful while aversive cognitive and behavioral techniques were reliably rated as somewhat to moderately harmful. Thirteen methods were rated as helpful by all subgroups. Other methods displayed much greater variability in their ratings. These methods mostly reflected religiously motivated intentions to live in congruence with religious values by restricting and otherwise discouraging same-sex attractions and behavior. However, an examination of group differences between participants who were LGB +-identified and those who were not revealed these methods tended to be perceived as mildly to somewhat harmful for the LGB +-identified group but mildly to somewhat helpful for those not identified as LGB +. Participants reporting a TC perspective often reported more helpfulness for these methods than TNC participants, who in turn reported less harmfulness than NT participants. We close with a discussion about the implications of these findings for the provision of clinical care, the conducting of research, and the development of public policy.

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