rainbow flagInternational lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) psychology and psychotherapy standards need to be developed to counter the prejudice and discrimination they can experience, according to two psychologists.

Collaborating counselling psychologists at Regent’s University London, Dr Markus Bidell and Professor Martin Milton, say that LGBT people encounter serious mental health disparities that can be critically worsened by discriminatory and prejudicial LGBT policies and human rights violations.

In an international symposium at the British Psychology Society’s (BPS) annual conference in Liverpool over 5-7 May, Dr Bidell and Professor Milton will highlight the psychosocial problems negatively impacting many LGBT individuals, along with the historic and current role of psychologists in addressing LGBT civil rights in the UK and US.

Most significantly, they add, prejudice and discriminatory policies in many countries are directly connected to mental health problems and civil rights violations experienced by many LGBT people.

“UK and US psychological organisations have played a defining role in furthering LGBT human rights by supporting professional policies, clinical treatment, research, and training, which reject biased perspectives that LGBT people were mentally disordered, immoral or social deviants,” said Dr Bidell.

“Current psychological standards in the US and UK affirm LGBT people have a sexual orientation and gender identity that is normal, healthy and legitimate.

“These shifts amongst US and UK psychologists have had tremendously positive social, policy, and legal implications for LGBT civil rights, such as same-sex marriage, discrediting conversion therapy, employment protection and transgender equality.

“However, we’ve been shocked by the number of international psychologists who’s thinking is not just outdated in this area, but extremely damaging to LGBT people. By creating an international set of LGBT psychological standards we hope to strengthen and advance equality, public policy, and human rights for LGBT across nations.”

Professor Milton added: “The psychology standards we are proposing mirror the very best research, treatment and training available. Our goal is to create an established code of LGBT affirmative psychology, which will strengthen LGBT equality in our countries and advance similar types of LGBT civil rights and public policy advancements in countries that still criminalise and pathologise LGBT people.”