The Olympics has always been an event where the world comes together in understanding and acceptance, but new ground was broken at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Adam Rippon competed in figure skating and medaled. He is the first openly gay athlete to win a medal at any winter Olympics, and he was not the only athlete to promote understanding and acceptance for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning community. Adam was joined by USA teammate and snowboarder Gus Kenworthy as athletes who competed out of the closet. Kenworthy had competed in the previous Olympics in the closet. He reflected upon that experience, saying, “It pushed me to this place where I needed to come out and I’m so happy that I did. To take that step meant a lot for me and for my mental well-being.” As great strides have been made, both in the Olympics and elsewhere, for LGBTQ people, the Olympics also illustrate how much work needs to be done. Kenworthy and Rippon told of how other athletes and coaches privately came out to them, but these athletes feared coming out publicly, knowing they would face abuse and discrimination. Much progress has been made, but much work needs to be done. Think about these realities:
- Rates of mental illness are three times higher in the LGBTQ community than they are in cis-gendered and straight populations.
- The substance abuse rate is also three times higher in the LGBTQ community: 30 percent as compared to 9 percent in the general population.
- At home and at school, LGBTQ youth (ages 10-24) face more bullying, hatred, prejudice and fear than straight and cis-gendered youth.
- A leading cause of death for LGBTQ youth is suicide.
- LGBTQ frequently report experiencing “minority stress.” They often feel a constant and acute anxiety that is a result of facing harassment, abuse, family rejection, social exclusion, and/or prejudice.
The world is all too often a hostile place to the LGBTQ community, and many LGBTQ people are living with the effects of increased mental illness. It is important that therapists understand the unique challenges that their LGBTQ clients may be experiencing and offer LGBTQ competent care. Thriveworks Counseling in Somerville, MA has helped many LGBTQ clients find the mental health care they need and deserve.
The Dual Stigma and LGBTQ Mental Health Care
Deciding to start therapy can be a difficult decision in and of itself, but some people face added difficulties. The mental health community has not always been a safe place for LGBTQ people to heal. Before 1973, the American Psychological Association officially labeled homosexuality a mental illness. Their official stance may have changed, but some therapists have not made the adjustment in their care. Some therapists see gender or sexual orientation as an issue to fix instead of promoting self-acceptance. Thus, a community that needs mental health care the most may also have the hardest time finding competent care. This dynamic occurs frequently enough to have a name: the dual stigma. Many, however, are working to raise awareness so that those in the LGBTQ community can receive competent mental health care.
Sensitive and Affirmative Therapy
“You can argue that it’s a different world now than the one when Matthew Shepard was killed, but there is a subtle difference between tolerance and acceptance. … It’s the chasm between being invited to a colleague’s wedding with your same-sex partner and being able to slow-dance without the other guests whispering.”
― Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home
An important principle in mental health care is self-acceptance. Each individual who pursues therapy is a unique person, but everyone has something in common: the need for a safe place to grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance. Each person has their own experience and stories, opportunities and challenges, traumas and triumphs, weaknesses and strengths. When therapy is a healthy process, clients will feel safe enough to live their truth—acknowledge and accept their reality. As trust and safety grow in the therapeutic relationship, clients are often able to delve into difficult topics. There is no right or wrong topic to address in therapy, but many LGBTQ clients discuss…
- How and when to come out
- Healthy communication
- Dating and other relationships
- Safety concerns
- Dealing with discrimination and non-acceptance
- Gender and sexual identity
- Past trauma and abuse
- Anxiety and stress
- Transcending gender roles
- Eating disorders
- Self-esteem issues
- Family concerns
Therapy often has a past and a future element. Healing can look like delving into the past, identifying wounds, and working toward healing. Healing can also look like anticipating the future. Therapy is often the place where people identify their dreams and build a life they love.
Scheduling Counseling at Thriveworks in Somerville for LGBTQ Competent Care
Are you considering therapy? If so, know that you are not alone. The mental health professionals at Thriveworks Counseling in Somerville are ready to walk with you on your healing journey. We have worked with many LGBTQ clients. We understand the unique challenges you may be facing as an LGBTQ individual, and we are committed to offering quality mental health care.
When you contact our office, know you may be meeting with your therapist the following day. Our scheduling specialists answer our phones and help our clients make their appointments. Weekend and evening sessions are offered, but we do not put our clients on a waitlist. Instead, we want to offer accessible care. We also accept many different forms of insurance. Call today.