How affirmative therapy can help the LGBTQ community
In today’s dismal world that has conversion therapy that is supposed to “fix” the LGBTQ community, there’s one mental healthcare treatment that can actually help the community: the affirmative therapy.
This type of treatment will help LGBTQ people face mental stresses, given the discrimination and harassment they continually face from society.
Affirmative Therapy: Anxiety from societyy
Many of the LGBTQ community face a lot of problems when they need a therapist, from actually being able to afford one to finding one who won’t discriminate against you.
Likewise, while identifying as LGBTQ has already been ruled out as a mental disorder, repeated studies have shown that LGBTQ individuals are twice as likely as straight individuals to have a mental health disorder.
Because of this, LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
“Sexual and gender minority people face a lot of stress and devaluation that can produce anxiety, depression, and other mental health troubles,” said Dr. Sheila Addison, a psychotherapist in Oakland, California.
“But the source of the problem is how society treats you, not who you are,” Dr. Addison said.
Dealing with the biases of therapists
Unfortunately, the general group of therapists and clinicians aren’t helping this community as research has shown that majority of them haven’t undergone training about working with LGBTQ individuals during school.
“It’s safe to assume that many therapists continue to practice for years without ever getting basic or updated information on sexual and gender minorities,” said Dr. Addison.
There’s also the supposed “conversion therapy”– as designed by therapists– which is actually a “medically unjust and destructive practice” to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Dr. Alex Iantaffi, chair-elect for the Trans and Queer Advocacy Network for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, said that LGBTQ individuals need one “who understands our identities and experiences, the systemic barriers we face, and how our existence is indeed resistance.”
For the LGBTQ individual who can find this mental healthcare provider, it can be literally lifesaving, Dr. Iantaffi said.
Affirmative Therapy as acceptance therapy
This is where “affirmative therapy” comes in: a therapist who is an LGBTQ ally that will ensure that therapy is supposed to help rather than cause harm.
“Affirmative therapists do not attempt to change someone’s gender identities, expression, or sexual identities, but rather they nurture and support authenticity and self-acceptance,” said Dr. Iantaffi.
What’s more they create a safe space for LGBTQ clients through their words, actions, and therapeutic approaches.
“Being an affirming therapist means that, first and foremost, you assume that being a sexual or gender minority is perfectly normal and valid,” Dr. Addison said.
“It means you don’t believe that being heterosexual or cisgender is ‘normal’ and everything else is a ‘deviation’ from normal,” she said.
Affirmative Therapy: How it works
Like other therapies, an LGBTQ individual talks with an affirming therapist on whatever they want, from their anxiety about work to their relationship to their body.
“Some people go to therapy to help figure out who they are and what they want– who they want romantic and sexual relationships with, what gender modality will feel congruent and affirming to them, and so on,” Dr. Addison said.
While any therapist can be friendly or even an LGBTQ ally, LGBTQ affirmative therapists are either LGBTQ individuals themselves or have loved ones who are LGBTQ individuals, said Dr. Robert Weiss, a clinical sexologist and practicing psychotherapist.
“They are neither externally nor internally homophobic, seeing no real difference between LGB people and straight people. They are similarly accepting of gender dysphoria and all sorts of other “queer” issues,” said Dr. Weiss.
“Furthermore, LGBTQ-affirmative therapists are fully cognizant of the discrimination, ridicule, and shame that their LGBTQ clients may have experienced, and they understand how these hurtful external messages can become internalized,” he added.