Research projects

Improving online therapy for mood disorders among lesbians and gay men

Principal researchers

Dr Anthony Lyons1
Tomas Rozbroj1
Professor Marian Pitts1
Professor Anne Mitchell1
Professor Helen Christensen2

Institution

1 Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria-Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
2 Black Dog Institute

Funding

$218,257

Award type

beyondblue National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year

2015

Background

  • E-therapies are self-help or clinician-assisted programs that deliver therapy via the Internet or apps. They hold unique potential to address healthcare shortages, and are an exciting and growing addition to health systems around the world. 
  • E-therapies are clinically-trialled, evidence-based, cost-effective treatments for low-to-moderate depression and anxiety. 
  • Lesbians and gay men in Australia are three times more likely to experience depression, and two times more likely to experience anxiety. This is a result of the psychological impact of stigma and discrimination. Fear of stigma can also prevent them from accessing face-to-face mental health treatments. 
  • E-therapies, which are anonymous, have much potential to assist lesbians and gay men with depression and anxiety. However e-therapies currently fail to take into account the needs of lesbians and gay men.
  • This project conducted ground-breaking research to inform a set of guidelines for tailoring e-therapies to the needs and experiences of lesbians and gay men.

Findings

  • A review of e-therapies from around the world found that these rarely catered to lesbians and gay men. Most failed to address key issues that are relevant to lesbians and gay men, such as stigma, and often appeared to assume users were heterosexual. 
  • Focus groups showed that current e-therapies may at times be inappropriate, alienating or ineffective for lesbians and gay men. The focus groups identified a range of improvements to address this. 

Toolkit

  • The project culminated in the world’s first set of guidelines, in the form of a toolkit for tailoring e-therapy to the needs of lesbians and gay men. The toolkit contains 25 recommendations in nine key areas of e-therapy design, as well as information about LGBT mental health and links to many useful resources. 
  • Recommendations are aimed at making e-therapies more inclusive and relevant. They encompass content and delivery, and cover topics like adjusting language and imagery, addressing stigma, representing same-sex relationships, and enhancing customisability to cater to sexual orientations. 
  • The recommendations will encourage and assist developers and other groups to more effectively address the needs of lesbians and gay men in e-therapy by modifying general e-therapies or creating new, tailored ones for lesbians and gay men. 

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