LGBTQI Therapy

What is LGBTQ Therapy?

Many lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (or questioning) individuals seek counseling for reasons similar to non-LGBTQ individuals (i.e. – depression, anxiety, grief, couples therapy, work stress, etc). And while some issues have little to do with sexuality, gender, or identity, the LGBTQ community does have their own set of unique challenges as well.

LGBTQ Mental Health Issues and Coping with Stigma

Research suggests that LGBTQ individuals seek mental health treatment at a higher rate than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.  This may be due to the stigma and discrimination LGBTQ individuals often face on a regular basis, from society, family members, peers, co-workers, and even classmates. This discrimination contributes to the higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles seen amongst LGBTQ. Those in the LGBTQ community are also much more likely to have a substance abuse problem, engage in self-harm behaviors, and/or experience suicidal thoughts. Thus, it is not surprising this population seeks mental health services at higher rates. In addition to the effects of stigma and discrimination, the LGBTQ population also often obtains mental health support for:

  • Gender dysphoria – according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), gender dysphoria is a psychological condition experienced by individuals whose gender identity and expression does not match with the gender assigned at birth.  Gender dysphoria can cause significant distress and affect a person’s overall mental wellbeing.
  • Sexual identity issues – sexual identity issues can refer to numerous concerns.  Sexual identity (or sexual orientation) refers to the emotions, thoughts, feelings, and fantasies that contribute to a person’s sexual or romantic attraction to another person.  LGBTQ individuals often go through periods of questioning their sexual identity, which can cause confusion and stress. Also pertinent to the LGBTQ community and sexual identity issues is the “coming out” process, and coping with the reactions of friends and family.

Over the past several years, the general public seems to have become more aware of the issues faced by the LGBTQ community. With this heightened awareness, mental health services have become more tailored to this population’s specific needs. One way this is being carried out is through LGBTQ affirmative therapy. This approach to psychotherapy is focused on the empowerment of LGBTQ individuals in all areas of life and relationships. Therapists working from an affirmative approach seek to honor the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals and help them navigate the challenges in an effective way.

Historically, many in the LGBTQ community who sought mental health services found counselors and therapists were uneducated about issues around sexuality, gender, and identity.  Unfortunately, this often resulted in LGBTQ clients ending their treatment prematurely or never actually seeking the treatment and support needed. And, in some cases, the client would end up being the one to educate the therapist on the struggles unique to the LGBTQ population. Thankfully, with the emergence of affirmative therapy (as it is referred to in the mental health community), this gap has started to close, and there has been a significant increase in the effectiveness of mental health treatment for the LGBTQ population.

Discrimination and stigma, in any form, can seriously impact the well-being of those who experience it. In order to begin to combat some of this (or cope with the stigma if it is directed at you), here are things you can do:

  • Learn more about the LGBTQ community and their struggles. Education is a way to increase understanding and raise awareness about the unique issues this population often faces (socially, economically, financially, etc.)
  • Educate yourself on human rights laws and how they pertain to the LGBTQ population.
  • Surround yourself with healthy people, such as supportive and encouraging family members, friends, and peers.  Whether or not they are dealing with the same issues as you (or someone you know), it is important to have people with whom you feel safe to express yourself and be open with.
  • Speak up if you witness (or are the victim of) discrimination.  Although it can be scary to share these kinds of experiences, it is one of the best ways to advocate for yourself, the LGBTQ community, and fight back at the discrimination.
  • Seek professional help. If you are facing a mental illness as a result of the stress from stigma and/or discrimination, getting support from a professional can help you learn ways to better cope, feel less isolated, and establish overall mental health and wellbeing.
  • Share your experiences with others. Whether you are part of the LGBTQ community yourself or have friends or family who identify as LGBTQ, share what you can with others.  The more the stigma surrounding this population is talked about, the more awareness it can gain.
  • Join a political or advocacy group to combat unjust policies and/or unfair treatment of the LGBTQ community.

Individual Therapy

Individual counseling is a personal opportunity to receive support and experience growth during challenging times in life. Individual counseling can help one deal with many personal topics in life such as anger, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage and relationship challenges, parenting problems, school difficulties, career changes, etc. 

Individual counseling (sometimes called psychotherapy, talk therapy, or treatment) is a process through which clients work one-on-one with a trained mental health clinician in a safe, caring, and confidential environment. Counseling allows individuals to explore their feelings, beliefs, and behaviors, work through challenging or influential memories, identify aspects of their lives that they would like to change, better understand themselves and others, set personal goals, and work toward desired change.

Individual counseling is counseling focused on the individual’s immediate or near future concerns. Individual counseling may encompass career counseling and planning, grief after a loved one dies or dealing with problems at a job before they become big. Individual counseling is a one-on-one discussion between the counselor and the client, who is the person seeking treatment. The two form an alliance, relationship or bond that enables trust and personal growth.

Child and Teen Therapy

How is Counseling for Children and Teens Different from Adults?

Counseling with adolescents or children requires a set of tools that is distinctly different than those used when helping adults. Younger children especially have less sophisticated verbal abilities than adults, but many of the same emotional challenges. Adolescents may be much more selective about what to communicate and with whom. Child and adolescent therapists have experience in navigating these barriers. They know how to work through a wide range of problems with these age groups.

Counseling for Children

Children often engage in nonverbal communication about the concerns they have. They may use things like imaginary play to dig into situations that they are struggling with. Child therapists use a range of specialized therapeutic tools such as “play therapy” or “expressive therapies” to engage children in a way that allows them to be heard effectively. While these interventions may look similar to games, they help the clinician sort through the child’s perception of circumstances and identify signs of emotional distress. Child therapists also study pragmatic interventions for behavioral issues. They work with parents, schools and other caregivers to help correct problematic behaviors that might be interfering with school or social activities. Psychologists are also able to perform diagnostic testing for emotional and academic issues that children struggle with. They can then assist with recommending interventions that might be needed to help support healthy social and academic development.

Counseling for Adolescents

Any parent with a teen can relate to the notion that teens might not always be easy to communicate with. Building trust and support is an integral part of the therapy process. It provides teens with a safe venue to vocalize concerns. This is a vital part of assessing how they are doing overall. Adolescent therapists specialize in stressors and issues facing the current generation of teens. They are effective at establishing a trusting relationship to be of help when difficulties arise. Like children, teens often need an advocate to work with various caregivers to communicate about needs or concerns.

When teens are anxious or depressed, the signs may not be as apparent as they are with adults. And, teens may not now how to effectively reach out for help. Counseling, along with good communication from family members, can be an effective way to identify and work through many emotional and social difficulties facing today’s teenagers. As with children, Psychologists also perform diagnostic testing with teens to help identify academic and emotional issues that may have been overlooked or misidentified.

How Much Does This Involve the Family?

Engaging family members (parent, in particular) is a crucial part of improving issues with children and adolescents. Providing support and guidance to parents is often a primary aim of this kind of counseling and clinicians can suggest various approaches and techniques that help reduce conflict and frustration, while restoring some positivity to the interactions at home. While counselors do work to build trust with children and teens, they also keep parents informed about goals, progress and any issues that arise during the process. Family therapy may also be a part of working with children, bringing parents into the sessions and working through problems as one big team.

Family Therapy

family

Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.

Family therapy is usually provided by a psychologist, clinical social worker or licensed therapist. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees and may be credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Family therapy is often short term. It may include all family members or just those able or willing to participate. Your specific treatment plan will depend on your family’s situation. Family therapy sessions can teach you skills to deepen family connections and get through stressful times, even after you’re done going to therapy sessions.

Why it’s done

Family therapy can help you improve troubled relationships with your partner, children or other family members. You may address specific issues such as marital or financial problems, conflict between parents and children, or the impact of substance abuse or a mental illness on the entire family.

Your family may pursue family therapy along with other types of mental health treatment, especially if one of you has a mental illness or addiction that also requires additional therapy or rehabilitation treatment. For example:

  • Family therapy can help family members cope if a relative has a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia — but the person who has schizophrenia should continue with his or her individualized treatment plan, which may include medications, one-on-one therapy or other treatment.
  • In the case of addiction, the family can attend family therapy while the person who has an addiction participates in residential treatment. Sometimes the family may participate in family therapy even if the person with an addiction hasn’t sought out his or her own treatment.

Family therapy can be useful in any family situation that causes stress, grief, anger or conflict. It can help you and your family members understand one another better and learn coping skills to bring you closer together.

Intimate Relationship Counseling

marriage counseling

Relationship counseling, also called couples therapy, is a type of psychotherapy. Marriage counseling helps couples of all types recognize and resolve conflicts and improve their relationships. Through marriage counseling, you can make thoughtful decisions about rebuilding and strengthening your relationship or going your separate ways.

Relationship counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees — and many choose to become credentialed by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Relationship counseling is often short term. Relationship counseling typically includes both partners, but sometimes one partner chooses to work with a therapist alone. The specific treatment plan depends on the situation.

Why it’s done

Relationship counseling can help couples in all types of intimate relationships — regardless of sexual orientation or marriage status.

Some couples seek relationship counseling to strengthen their partnership and gain a better understanding of each other. Relationship counseling can also help couples who plan to get married. Premarital counseling can help couples achieve a deeper understanding of each other and iron out differences before marriage.

In other cases, couples seek relationship counseling to improve a troubled relationship. You can use relationship counseling to help with many specific issues, including:

  • Communication problems
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Conflicts about child rearing or blended families
  • Substance abuse
  • Anger
  • Infidelity

Relationship counseling might also be helpful in cases of domestic abuse. If violence has escalated to the point that you’re afraid, however, counseling alone isn’t adequate. Contact the police or a local shelter or crisis center for emergency support.