Discrimination and Mental Illness in the LGBT Population

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Research Problem

The research problem is studying the lived experiences of discrimination and mental illness in the LGBT population. When working with the LGBT community, there are many complex factors that need to be addressed for therapy to be successful with them ranging from social stigma to discrimination and mental health. Doing more qualitative studies on this topic can help us gain a better understanding of the actual experiences clients go through.

Significance of the Problem

There is clearly a gap in the literature on this topic and more research needs to be done so that counselors can gain more knowledge on how to work with this population. This research can help provide an explanation for why mental health diagnoses are rated to be higher in the LGBT population than in the heterosexual population ( Choi,& Paul, & Ayala, & Boylan, & Gregorich, 2013). The process of identifying as gay, lesbian, queer, or transgender can be a very complex process, especially if they are in minority status in other cultural dynamics. To begin to understand the struggles of this community is to begin to learn about all of the different issues that this population faces.

Benefits of the Research Project

The LGBT population will benefit from this study because it will provide knowledge on how discrimination and other factors impacts them. Other populations cannot understand the struggle without hearing personal accounts of the things that they have endured, and a study on this topic can provide that. This study can also provide an opportunity to share their experiences because it is common for this population to not only face discrimination but not be given the opportunity to make their voices heard. This project can help make a possible link towards discrimination and mental health and lend to more research being done later down the line.

Literature Review

Choi (2013) says that there is a gap in the literature regarding mental health and discrimination (Choi, 2013). Previous studies that have been done on discrimination and mental health may or may not be generalizable among different populations due to different factors. On the other hand, the question remains why are mental health disorders more prevalent among the LGBT community?

Another important factor that may impact discrimination experiences is the fear of coming out as LGBT. Cole & Harris (2017) conducted a qualitative study that focused on the lived experiences of those that identified as LGBT and as a Christian (Cole & Harris, 2017).  The learner found this study fascinating as she conducted her research because it incorporates the complexity of the coming out process and possible discrimination that they might face as well as maintaining their identity as a Christian. This study helped show the need for multi-cultural competency because they may align themselves in several minority categories and it will be our job to help them work thorough potential conflict.

Owen-Pugh & Baines (2014) did a qualitative study asking new counselors what their experience was like working with the LGBT population (Owen-Pugh & Baines, 2014). This is important because it can help us understand what their mindset was as new counselors, and what it was like to work with a population that they likely do not have much expertise with. The important thing from this study was what did they learn from their clinical work from this population? Owen-Pugh made an interesting statement in her study by saying that homophobia is a part of some counseling theories (Owen-Pugh, 2014). If this is the case, then more caution needs to be made on not shaming clients by utilizing a counseling theory that would be harmful to them. Owen-Pugh (2014) also said that the LGBT population is more likely to attend counseling than the heterosexual population (Owen-Pugh, 2014). The learner is curious as to where there is such a differential. This could be attribute to a multitude of factors, and she is curious how the mental health stigma would impact that.

Piggybacking on that, heterosexuality is view as the norm in society and that societal norm may be passed down even to the counseling field. Grant (2015) states viewing heterosexuality as the norm does impact mental health and encourages the stigma that those within the LGBT community faces. When we make assumptions about client sexuality, it might make it harder for them to share their truth with us in counseling, when that is supposed to be the area where that is their safe space. The difficult part is getting rid of a negative message that has continued to spread throughout the counseling field, but awareness is the first step to positive change.

While conducting research on this paper, there is evidence suggesting that experiences and stigma among the transgendered population might be different from others within the LGBT community. Riggs, & Ansara, & Treharne (2015) says that there were 3 factors for Australians within the transgender population: discrimination, hormones and surgery access, and social support (Riggs, & Ansara, & Treharne, 2015).  Discrimination experiences appear to at a high within this population, especially with the debate about transgenders and access to public restrooms. It is important to understand the experiences that this population goes through especially regarding sex reassignment surgery and the discrimination that they face. They might face their own coming out process that could markedly differ from coming out as a gay or a lesbian individual. This study reported the mental health experiences that transgenders face and there is also a gap in the literature regarding that topic.

The next study was a qualitative study analyzing transgendered experiences in addiction treatment and assessed the stigma associated with it. Lyons, & Shannon, Pierre, & Krusi, & Kerr (2015) states that there is a research gap among transgender populations and their experiences with addiction treatment. More research needs to be done so that more culturally sensitive treatments could be geared towards the transgendered population.

Bockting, & Miner, & Romine, & Hamilton, & Coleman (2013) tried to find a relationship between mental health and stigma within the transgender population (Bockting, & Miner, & Romine, & Hamilton, & Coleman, 2013).  They discussed how the stigma they faced impacted and exacerbated the mental health symptoms that they reported. They also acknowledged that social support was a major factor in how they coped with symptoms and discussed the oppression that the transgendered population commonly faces.

Ploderi & Tremblay (2015) reports that they studied whether the LGBT community is at an increased risk for mental health disorders (Ploders & Tremblay, 2015). This study is important because it can help us see if those previous results were valid or if they had any previous bias that needed to be acknowledged.  A bigger question is: If the LGBT population is at increased risk of mental health disorders, why is that the case and what can be done to change that?

Research Design

The research design that will be used is a qualitative study. She wants to learn more into the actual experiences the LGBT population has faced regarding discrimination. More specifically, she would want to explore a phenomenological study because that method focuses on client experiences (Sheperis, Young, & Daniels, 2017). She wants to focus on the client experience and learn how the discrimination they face impacted them personally and get a more personal feel for how this population was negatively affected.

Research Purpose Statement and Questions

The purpose of this research is to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of discrimination within the LGBT community. How does the lived experiences of discrimination impact the mental health of individuals in the LGBT population?

Data Collection Plan

Sampling Approach

The learner would try to recruit volunteers within the LGBT population to volunteer for this study when nominal compensation provided for their time. She would utilize a convenience sample to gain her sample for the study. She would utilize a sample from asking for volunteers from a counseling center that specializes in counseling the LGBT population and would check to make sure they fit within the criteria of being a part of the LGBT (even if they are not openly disclosing) community to be sure she is not utilizing heterosexual samples.

Gaining Permission

Informed consent throughout the entire process will be vital for the study’s success. She will make sure they sign detailed informed consent forms explaining the entire study and the purpose of the study. She would make sure the clients give consent throughout the entire study and can stop participation if the semi-structured interviews become too intrusive or uncomfortable for them. Lyons (2015) acknowledged the importance of gaining informed consent and getting permission from the clients to record the interviews (Lyons, 2015). Client privacy and rights must be respected throughout the entire process.

Data to be Collected

The learner would use interviews to collect the information about the clients lived experiences regarding discrimination. She would also want to collect data regarding mental health diagnoses the clients have been diagnosed with, but that might be trickier to get because of the mental health stigma that exists. Maintaining proper ethics and being respectful of the fact that these are highly sensitive topics will be key in this study. It will also be important to build the therapeutic alliance with the client so they feel that they can trust the researcher with that information.

Procedures for Recording Data

The learner would use semi-structured interviews to collect the data. Semi-structured interviews are great because they provide the structure for the researcher to ask the questions that they need to ask yet gives flexibility to let the client share what they want to share as well. Flexibility is the big key in semi-structured interviews (Sheperis, 2017). The learner would also use audio recordings to record each of the interviews to have accurate representation of the information presented, BUT also make sure to maintain stringent informed consent procedures. She would also ensure that she is very careful with storing the materials so that confidentiality is protected.

Data Analysis and Interpretation Plan.

Preparing and Organizing Data for Analysis

            She would prepare the data by utilizing audio recordings because that would present the data accurately with no misinterpretations and she could listen to them as many times as necessary. Relying on memory can lead to bias and selection errors which would completely mess up the study.  She would also member check throughout the process to ensure the information is accurate (Cole, 2017).

Exploring and Coding the Data

The learner would want to code the information into different themes that would translate throughout the study. She would work to code the information regarding the experiences of discrimination into different themes and code the data regarding mental health as well.  The data discussing mental health might be able to be broken down as well to make the coding easier.

Building Description and Themes

The learner would strive to use the data to get different themes from the data. The themes she would write would likely be: Background of discrimination experiences, background regarding the mental health diagnoses, links the participant made between discrimination and how it impacted their mental health, etc. There might be many other themes that might emerge from this study but those are the main ones the learner would focus on. Choi (2013) attempted to find a possible relationship between discrimination and mental health among gay men (Choi, 2013). The learner would want to expand this to see how the entire LGBT population is impacted by discrimination or take a more specific focus to see how discrimination impacts the transgender population.

Reporting Findings

She would report the results by discussing the themes that was discovered during the client interviews. She would break down each section and share what was learned if she had conducted the research study. It would be important to figure out if there are any patterns with any of the themes and if so report that as a part of the findings. The data that is found in a qualitative study is in narrative form rather than in numerical form (Sheperis, 2017). When the learner would report findings, she would be reporting what was discovered about the clients lived experiences instead of translating data into numerical form.

Interpreting Findings

The findings would be interpreted based off what the participants report from their lived experiences. They might report something that really triggered their mental health diagnosis and that might be grounds for further study. With semi-structured interviews being the main source used in the study, the learner would focus on reporting what was gained from the focused set of questions, and then adding any information that was gained outside of the prepared questions. This section would describe what the clients experienced and this could help lead to future studies seeking to find possible correlations between mental health and discrimination in the LGBT community.

Validating the Accuracy of the Findings

Member-checking would be an important part of the process. We need to be sure that the information is transcribed accurately and there is no bias that could impact the study. This is another reason the learner would want to audio record the interview. It is easy to forget things that were said, or misinterpret something that a client reported. It would also be important to make sure there are different researchers in charge of different aspects of the research study. No one should be running each aspect because of the potential for it to become biased and mess up the study.

Ethical and Culturally Relevant Considerations

It will be very important to maintain confidentiality because this is a very touchy subject. It is a very personal subject to encourage others to open up about their lived experiences regarding discrimination and mental illness, and confidentiality must be respected. Informed consent will remain an ongoing part of the research project and clients will be allowed to withdraw at any time that they feel uncomfortable. Another consideration is making sure all materials pertaining to the research study is locked up so that confidentiality is not breached.

It will be crucial to be mindful of cultural beliefs within the LGBT community. It is important to not make assumptions on their spiritual or religious beliefs or any other culture they identify with. Cole & Harris (2017) states that they wanted to study individuals in the LGBT community that also identifies as Christians (Cole & Harris, 2017). We will have to be mindful of other cultural beliefs that might present while conducting the study and be respectful of them even if the values appear to clash. We are mandated to do no harm to clients and that stands regarding research studies.

We also must be particular about what assessments or instruments we use in research studies because not all of them are useful for diverse clientele.  We must be mindful and do research to make sure the instruments used are appropriate for the population we are measuring. It would unethical to use an instrument to measure the LGBT population when it has been proven that that instrument is not accurate for measuring within that population.


In conclusion, the learner learned a lot about conducting research studies. In might be challenging for her to find a site to conduct the study and gain a good sample size for the study. This study touches upon discrimination experiences and mental health diagnoses, both of which are going to be difficult topics for individuals to discuss. Therefore, it might be difficult to get an adequate sample size that fits the criteria of the study.


Bockting, W., & Miner, M., & Romine, R., & Hamilton, A., & Coleman, E. (2013). Stigma, mental health, and resilience in an online sample of the US transgender population. American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from: Capella

Choi, H., & Paul, J., & Ayala, G., & Boylan, R., & Gregorich, S. (2013). Experiences of discrimination and their impact on the mental health among African American, Asian, and Pacific Islander, and Latino men who have sex with men. Research and practice. Retrieved from: Capella

Cole, C., & Harris, H. (2017). The lived experiences of people who identify as LGBT Christians: Considerations for social work helping. Journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work. Retrieved from: Capella

Grant, A. (2015). Depathologising sexualities in mental health services. Mental Health Practice. Retrieved from: Capella

Lyons, T., & Shannon, K., & Pierre, L., & Small, W., & Krusi, A., & Kerr, T. (2015). A qualitative study of transgender individuals’ experiences in residential addiction treatment settings: Stigma and inclusivity. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. Retrieved from: Capella

Owen-Pugh, V., & Baines, L. (2013). Exploring the clinical experiences of novice counsellors working with LGBT clients: Implications for training. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. Retrieved from: Capella

Ploderi, M., & Tremblay, P. (2015). Mental health of sexual minorities. A systematic review. International Review of Psychiatry. Retrieved from: Capella

Riggs, D., & Ansara, G., & Treharne, G. (2015). An evidence-based model for understanding the mental health experiences of transgender Australians. Australian Psychologist. Retrieved from: Capella

Sheperis, C.J., Young, J.S., & Daniels, M. H. (2017). Counseling research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson



Cite this page: Danielle Bosley, "Discrimination and Mental Illness in the LGBT Population," in PsychologyDictionary.org, July 28, 2017, https://psychologydictionary.org/research-pre-proposal/ (accessed September 30, 2022).