How Intersectional Are Mental Health Interventions for Sexual Minority People? A Systematic Review

LGBT Health. 2020 Jul;7(5):220-236. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2019.0328. Epub 2020 May 15.


Purpose: Complex and widespread stigma exposes sexual minority people to disproportionate risks for adverse mental health. Intersectionality theory calls for consideration of the unique experiences of living with multiple forms of inequality. Yet, concerns remain regarding the extent to which intersectionality theory has been integrated into mental health interventions for sexual minority populations. This systematic review aims to assess the degree to which available mental health interventions account for intersecting forms of marginalization and to identify methods that facilitate the application of intersectionality. Methods: A search for peer-reviewed English language journal articles was conducted using PsycINFO and PubMed to locate reports of mental health interventions for sexual minority groups. A coding framework was designed to evaluate how interventions incorporated intersectionality theory. Results: Of 1877 potentially eligible articles, forty-three were included in the analysis. They were each classified as low, medium, or high with regard to intersectionality. Thirteen (30.2%) were rated as low on intersectionality for only recruiting a homogeneous group of participants in the interventions; 23 (53.4%) were classified as medium for including additional identities in recruitment without responding to possible intersectional disadvantages; 7 (16.3%) were rated as high with adequate consideration of the complex effects of intersecting positions. In addition, the review identified community-based participatory research as a common and instrumental method to ensure intersectionality. Conclusions: This review highlights the limitations of interventions for sexual minority people in addressing intersectionality. Guidelines are needed for clinical practice and evaluation to adequately incorporate intersectionality theory.

Keywords: intersectionality; mental health interventions; sexual minority people; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Social Stigma