Data Type: Journal Article

Gay affirmative therapy: A critical analysis of the literature.

Harrison, N. (2000). Gay affirmative therapy: A critical analysis of the literature. British Journal of Guidance & Counseling, 20, 37-53.

In this article, author Nigel Harrison conducts a review of several pieces of technical literature on the subject of “gay affirmative therapy” and “gay affirmative psychology,” published in a variety of scholarly journals between 1982 and 1995. Harrison argues that an initial review of the literature indicated that, at the time of his writing, the concept of “gay affirmative therapy” appeared to be “fragmented,” as different psychologists and sociologists presented different models of “gay affirmative therapy” in their research. Harrison, seeing no single cohesive conception of “gay affirmative therapy,” decided that the literature required further evaluation, and thus developed a research study involving a sample of 33 journal articles and summaries of conference papers. Harrison identifies 15 common themes among “gay affirmative therapy” literature in this article, and attempts to synthesize them into one integrated model. The main aim of Harrison’s research was to critically analyze the preexisting “gay affirmative therapy” literature by asking four interlinked questions of the articles in his sample: “(i) Does gay affirmative therapy exist? (ii) Can gay affirmative therapy be defined? (iii) Are there distinguishing features implicit in gay affirmative therapy? (iv) What issues emerge which have wider implications for counseling clients who are gay?” (p. 40).
The literature that comprised Harrison’s review was written in English and printed in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. Harrison defends the potential geographical bias of his sample by stating, “The justification for the geographical restriction is that a gay identity has been identified as a Western concept” (p. 40). Harrison devised five stages of “framework” (Ritchie & Spencer, 1994) to conduct his analysis of the data: “(i) familiarisation; (ii) identifying a thematic framework; (iii) indexing; (iv) charting; and (v) mapping and interpretation” (p. 41).
Harrison concludes that “gay affirmative therapy” does indeed exist, but criticizes the contemporary literature’s conception of it: “Gay affirmative therapy has a conceptual basis, but little empirical work was found to underpin the approach…The literature was fragmented, focusing on vague notions, and not linking the macro and micro levels, or integrating the knowledge, skills and values of the counselor” (p. 46). Harrison acknowledges that literature on the subject of therapeutic perspectives in working with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients is growing, but pushes for further critical analysis by other researchers, as the study featured in this article only makes use of data, “predominately from the USA, where a distinctive culture and values exist amongst therapists and in the gay community,” in addition to the fact that, “some personal bias also exists” (p. 50). Harrison emphasizes the necessity for more cohesive, unified models of “gay affirmative therapy” and “gay affirmative approaches” in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, as, “Therapists…have a role in being more proactive and more focused on changing attitudes towards gay people at a macro level, so that their reactive work at a micro level might eventually become less necessary” (p. 51). This article would be useful to any researcher investigating the therapeutic or psychoanalytical treatment of LGBTQA-identified clients or patients as it provides insight into some of the earliest pieces of technical literature on the subject. In this article, Harrison has dissected a few of the most important and influential models and conceptions of “gay affirmative therapy” in the late 20th century, leaving the door open for his conclusions to be built upon with further reviews of more modern, or even global, literature and research on the same subject.

Categories: Counseling and Clinical Psychology, History & Philosophy of Psychology & Psychiatry, Queer Theory/Sexuality Studies
Publication Date: 2000