Terri K. Lankford, LPCS
Holistic LGBTQIA+ Allyship in the Therapy Space
Do you know the origins of June and LGBTQIA+ Pride? Every June, LGBTQI+ community members and allies alike remember the June 1969 Stonewall Uprising which marked a major turning point for the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. Today, we celebrate the power and presence of the queer and gender non-conforming community through Pride celebrations across the country.
With June coming to a close, we are mindful of continuing to create space for LGBTQIA+ folks. What can we do, though, to show allyship in the therapy space year-round? With 5.6% of Americans identifying LGBTQI+ and nearly 16% of Gen Z folx identifying as queer, it’s more important than ever that clinicians offer culturally-sensitive care for our folx outside of the heterosexual identity. Just some concerns LGBTQIA+ folx may bring to therapy include systemic oppression, laws targeting the queer population, coming out to family and friends, navigating a heteronormative dating scene, feeling secure in their identity, different relationship dynamics and more.
What are ways we can holistically care for LGBTQIA+ folx? Check out just three strategies below.
Promote Advocacy In and Out of the Therapy Room
As mental health counselors and supporters, we are advocates for change. In the counseling room, this looks like supporting queer clients in coming out to their family finally, keeping a running knowledge of community resources LGBTQIA+ individuals can use, and showing empathy towards the lesbian couple who has been denied for adoption based on their sexuality. Outside of the therapy office, advocacy looks like using our voting privileges to protect the community, writing to government officials when anti-LGBT laws are enacted, and spreading education on the challenges for non-heterosexual or non-cisgender folx. No matter your chosen route of advocacy, it’s important to keep in mind that advocacy is the root of allyship.
Advocacy also supports clients in receiving their basic needs, which is the point of holistic wellness: all parts of a person’s life should be considered. If it’s harder to receive appropriate healthcare, legal rights, and protections, these are all factors to consider in holistic mental health.
Honor Intersectionality and Universality
Intersectionality is the idea that our multiple identities (like race, ethnicity, gender, sex, ability, religion, and so on) overlap in multiple areas; we can never just be one thing. For queer and gender non-conforming folx, sex, gender, and sexual orientation are a few factors that influence all their other identities. For example, being a gay Black man will create a totally different experience than being a gay white man simply because identities overlap differently.
In the therapy room, it’s important to honor intersectionality and recognize a LGBTQIA individual will have a different worldview than their non-LGBTQIA counterpart. However, it’s also important to remember: the human experience impacts us all. A lesbian mother and a hetereosexual mother both experience simply motherhood. Don’t lose the idea of universality when working with LGBTQIA+ folx!
Practice Inclusive Case Management
Case management in the therapy world is the practice of coordinating multiple resources to help a client holistically. One example of this is directing a client to a local food pantry non-profit when a client is experiencing food insecurity.
For LGBTQIA+ folx, inclusive case management is vital. Not all doctors, unfortunately, provide gender-affirming care to gender-nonconforming clients, and not all agencies will accept queer clients. CenterLink is just one resource you can use - it’s a database that shows LGBTQ+ resource centers across the country, which can connect individuals to affirming doctors, mental health therapists, nutritionists, personal fitness trainers, and more. Inclusive care is a necessity when meeting the holistic needs of LGBTQIA+ folx.
We hope this blog has informed you about holistic care for the LGBTQIA+ community! Whether you’re a queer individual or an ally, you can reach out to us for affirming, inclusive care. If you’d like a counselor that you know will empathize with your unique struggles and provide an excellent level of care for your community, reach out today through our website. We look forward to hearing from you!