Paradigm’s Linda K. Reeves, MA, LMFT, has presented before on topics pertaining to the LGBT+ community. As the parent of a gay son, she is passionate about the care that LGBT+ individuals receive. She presented again, this time at the NATSAP conference from January 30 to February 2, 2018. The name of the workshop was Essential Clinical Constructs for Treatment of LGBT+ Individuals and Their Families.
It’s widely known among clinicians that LGB and TGNC youth are more prone to depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. Some of this is due to societal stigma and discrimination. Family support and social acceptance (or the lack thereof) can greatly impact the mental health and personal safety of these youth.
LGBT+ youth are three times more likely than their heterosexual, cisgender peers to have a mental health condition, four times more likely to attempt suicide or self-harm, and two to three times more likely to abuse substances.
Many of these youth have experienced discrimination, misgendering, denied care, and blame when visiting medical or mental health professionals. As a result, a large number of LGBT+ youth avoid seeking care for mental health conditions. Mental health professionals can unintentionally exhibit a lack of cultural sensitivity and an unconscious reluctance to discuss these individuals’ sexuality. When LGBT+ youth do seek care, some of them hide their sexuality, which impedes the ability of the clinician to consider it when recommending treatment.
Despite the issues mentioned, LGBT+ youth are seeking treatment in growing numbers. Unfortunately, not all staff are properly trained to provide LGB/TGNC affirmative therapy. Understanding how to affirm LGBT+ youth will benefit clinicians, LGB/TGNC youth, their families, and their communities.
Some of the topics that the workshop delved into included:
- How institutional and familial heteronormativity and cisgender privilege influence the identity development of LGBT+ individuals. This development can lead to addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality, depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and insecure attachment. Any of these can also lead to risky behaviors.
- Understanding the difference between gender non-conformity and gender dysphoria, how gender is experienced by youth with autism spectrum disorder, and more about the identity development of TGNC youth.
- Tips on how to interpret client symptoms and apply interventions from an LGBT+ affirmative perspective.
- Some of the logistic, administrative, and clinical modifications necessary when providing treatment to LGBT+ individuals.
Clinicians who are new to and familiar with work within the LGBT+ community benefited greatly from the workshop. It functioned as both an information-rich introduction and a review of theory and application.