Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Sharon Rostosky


Sexual minority men experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at rates similar to, if not higher, than heterosexual individuals (Finneran & Stephenson, 2013). IPV is associated with a range of negative health outcomes in this population, such as increased risk for depression and anxiety (Miller & Irvin, 2017) and increased sexual risk-taking and subsequent HIV acquisition (Craft & Serovich, 2005; Houston & McKirnan, 2007). Many barriers prevent sexual minority men from getting help for IPV including stigma-related stressors, socioeconomic status, HIV status, perceived lack of helping resources, and a lack of knowledge about IPV (Duke & Davidson, 2009; Edwards, Sylaska, & Neal, 2015).

Little is known about how sexual minority men overcome these barriers and access the psychological support and help that they need. This study explored this process using a grounded theory methodology. Twelve sexual minority men volunteered to be individually interviewed about their experiences with seeking and getting professional psychological help for IPV in an intimate relationship. Findings revealed a process that included (1) triggering events; (2) motivation to seek help; (3) searching for help; (4) getting help and persisting with the therapeutic process. A triggering event (i.e., an incident of IPV or mental health concerns following IPV) resulted in participants searching for psychological help from psychologists, therapists, and/or psychiatrists. Personal motivators, such as character strengths, responding to important relationships, and wanting insight about their experience with IPV, led to help-seeking. Searching for help required participants to push past concerns and worries using character strengths to engage in web searches or to follow up on referrals from healthcare providers and from important people in their lives. Clinicians’ flexible scheduling, therapeutic style and presence, and personal characteristics helped men persist with help-seeking. Implications for policy and psychotherapy practice with sexual minority men are discussed. In particular, implications for clinicians working with this population are explored based on each step of this help-seeking process. Inclusive education and training needs to be provided to health service providers, mental health practitioners, and community members. Mental health providers need training to provide culturally competent services to sexual minority men who are IPV survivors and for services to be visible and widely advertised to promote help-seeking.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Spring 2018 - University of Kentucky Graduate and Professional Student Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Research Grant.