“Stepping up the Ladder in Safety”: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of how LGB Clients Experience Their Therapists’ Sexual Orientation

Tsabika Bafiti, Maria Viou, Prodromos Tarasis


Relevant literature has explored the issue of disclosure of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) therapists to heterosexual or LGB clients. But how do homosexual or bisexual clients understand and experience their therapist’s heterosexual orientation, known or assumed, in relation to the therapeutic alliance and the therapeutic process? In this qualitative study, we used the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to examine eight semi-structured interviews with LGB clients in a family-oriented therapy in Greece. Analysis revealed two themes of higher order, each having three subordinate themes depicting the client’s experience of the therapist’s sexual orientation: 1. Focus on the therapist’s sexual orientation: (a) as a hypothesis (b) as a factor of acceptance (c) as a factor of professional capability and 2. Focus on other therapist features: (a) gender (b) personality traits (c) practice of professional role. The therapist’s sexual orientation or the one perceived by the client was not a neutral issue in therapy and the cultivation of the therapeutic relationship but was only one part of the process. The way all these issues were processed and approached by clients was related to their personal history and phase of therapy. Suggestions for future research include conducting a research on clients from different therapeutic perspectives since it was carried out only on participants in long-term systemic family therapy.


Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis; therapist’s sexual orientation; therapeutic relationship; LGB clients; family therapy