“I’m not sure I trust the system yet”: Lesbian Service Member Experiences with Mental Health Care.

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The purpose of this research was to understand lesbian service member experiences with mental health care. Individual and organizational factors were explored, including the influence of military policy (e.g., “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) on service member utilization of mental health services. Thirty-seven participants responded to a survey containing 16 open-ended items regarding the impact of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on one’s professional life, relational life, identity, and willingness to access mental health services. Data were analyzed through an open- and axial-coding and constant comparative method. The findings indicated a lesbian service woman’s likelihood of accessing mental health services was impacted by confidentiality concerns, fear of repercussions, and a sense that military culture lags behind policy changes. Recommendations for therapists included renewed focus on safety through affirmative practices, need for competency in military and lesbian/gay culture, and sensitivity to the effects of systemic oppression on self-esteem. Implications and future research are discussed.


Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling

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