Gender-sensitivity interventions for mental health practitioners working in substance use disorder treatment facilities: a systematic review

  • Liezille Jacobs
  • Moosa Maseko
Keywords: Gender-sensitive Training; Genderqueer; Substance Use Disorder; Interventions; Social Construction Theory


The aim of this systematic review was to find emerging evidence on mental healthcare workers’ responsiveness and gender-sensitivity towards the genderqueer population in SUD treatment centres. The purpose was also to systematically search for interventions to address the lack of gender-sensitivity amongst mental health practitioners in SUD treatment centres. This study problematises that genderqueer individuals are less likely to access substance use treatment because of the stigma and discrimination that comes with being a non-binary gender. A qualitative systematic review was conducted using these search engines: Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, Web of Science, Google Scholar, EBSCO Host and Digital theses databases using the Rhodes University (RU) library catalogue. Twenty-five studies that were included met the quality control standards of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Employing the Joanna Briggs Institute’s (JBIs) qualitative systematic review method, 25 qualitative articles were included in this study. A thematic analysis was used to examine the data. The analysis revealed that SUD treatment centres are experienced as discriminatory and unreceptive by the genderqueer population due to several barriers. The barriers identified were structural, financial, personal, and cultural and the use of a heterosexual framework to treat SUDs which led to abuse, isolation, and stigma. Mental healthcare providers lack skills in working with genderqueer individuals and they lack knowledge on genderqueer related needs. The need for gender-sensitivity creates barriers for genderqueer individuals in accessing SUD treatment centres and their general sense of well-being. This magnified the need/importance of specialised gender-responsive and gender-sensitive training in working with genderqueer individuals. Twelve interventions targeted at mental health workers to address gender-sensitivity were identified and recommended.


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eISSN: 1596-9231