The Importance of LGBTQIA+ Understanding in Therapy

The Importance of LGBTQIA+ Understanding in Therapy

When attempting to find a therapist, someone in a minority population might find it to be difficult. There are numerous questions that this person has running through their head when deciding on a therapist. What kind of therapist do I want? Do I want a therapist of my same minority group? Is there even a therapist near me that is part of my minority group? If I find a therapist that is in the majority group, how will they treat me? These are just a few questions that might cross the mind of a person in a minority population trying to find a therapist. Although it can be a sad reality, minority populations face much trouble when trying to find a therapist, and even just in general.

To put this into perspective, think of someone in your life that you share your thoughts and feelings with. It could be your family, friends, or even your neighbors. Now think about if they were experiencing the exact opposite treatment from society than you. If they were able to get a raise at work and you have been working there longer than they have. In this situation, you may not want to share your thoughts and feelings with these people who get treated better than you because they do not have to go through what you go through and therefore do not understand. This is somewhat how minority groups feel when they face society, especially when interacting with people in majority groups.

Individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community especially face this struggle on a regular basis. LGBTQIA+ individuals have to “come out” more than once. Most people think that “coming out” is just a one time thing, but it is far from a one time thing. While an individual might be “out” to their family, they may still be “in the closet” with their friends. Individuals in this minority group, have to take into consideration how their loved ones will react to how they identify. This becomes an even larger struggle when the individuals in this community are trying to seek out a therapist who they believe will understand their struggles.

The American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1975, stating that mental health professionals should do what they can to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, including those surrounding homosexual identities (APA, 1975). Therapists are taught to uphold the Code of Ethics, which includes Non-Discrimination. This is the first code that therapists must uphold in order to be ethical. According to the Code of Ethics, therapists are expected to understand diverse clients and have the ability to help clients without prejudice (Alderson, 2004). A therapist is to see the humanity of this person, even if they are polar-opposites.

When thinking about the LGBTQIA+ community, there will more than likely be therapists who are heterosexual rather than homosexual. The Williams Institute found that there are approximately nine million Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (Gates, 2021). They found that 3.5% of all adult Americans are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and 0.3% of all adult Americans identify as transgender (Gates, 2021). When taken out of perspective, this seems like a large amount of individuals. This demonstrates that LGBTQIA+ individuals matter in therapy, because there are a large number of community members in this country.

Even though there are a lot of LGBTQIA+ individuals, that does not mean that these topics are covered in therapy. One article states that focus and consideration of LGBTQIA+ issues in therapy are rare (Bieschke, Paul, & Blasko, 2007). This means that therapists may not be aware of LGBTQIA+ issues and concepts. However, because there are a fair amount of individuals within this community, it should be discussed while therapists are training. In order for the clients to feel like they are properly heard and understood, a therapist should be competent in minority population concepts and issues, which includes the LGBTQIA+ community.

Therefore, a therapist’s competency matters greatly when it comes to LGBTQIA+ concepts and issues, because it is hard to help someone if the therapist is unable to fully understand the client. When individuals within this community are seeking out therapy, I highly encourage these individuals to help the therapist understand whichever minority group they are a part of. Some therapists are not very educated when it comes to minority groups, but they are ready to learn more and do their best to understand.


References:
Adelman, D. (2021). Image. Addressing the Needs of LGBTQIA+ Clients. Retrieved
            from https://drewadelman.com/lgbtq.
Alderson, K. G. (2004). A Different Kind of Outing. Training Counsellors to Work with
            Sexual Minority Clients. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 38(3), 193–210.

American Psychological Association (1975). Minutes of the Council of Representatives.
            In Buhrke, R. A. (1989). Female student perspectives on training in lesbian and
            gay issues. The Counseling Psychologist, 17(4), 629–636.
            https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000089174006

Bieschke, K. J., Paul, P. L., & Blasko, K. A. (2007). Review of empirical research
            focused on the experience of lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients in counseling and
            psychotherapy. In Bieschke, K. J., Perez, R. M., & DeBord, K. A. (Eds.)
            Handbook of counseling and psychology with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
            transgender clients. 2. 
293-315. Washington DC: American Psychological
            Association.
Gates, G. J. (2021). “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?”
            Williams Institute,

            https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/how-many-people-lgbt/.

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