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Finding a queer therapist can be difficult. Here’s how the queer community makes it easier

I found my therapist the same way I found the person I’m going to marry this summer: through my friend Hannah. I met Hannah one November evening in 2015, when I showed up at the Cubbyhole in New York City for my first meeting with a queer social media group, wearing my (only) gay-looking Uniqlo button, a beanie and a a whole bunch of residual pain and angst after a bad breakup. Yes, the breakup had happened several months ago, but she had been my first girlfriend and I was still struggling – a really tough time. And, Hannah noticed. “Do you suffer from anxiety and depression, are you still recovering from a breakup and you don’t have a therapist?” she said to me with a kindness that I will never forget. It was the first time I had heard someone say the word “therapy” without using a low-key, secretive tone. My education in the Midwest taught me that therapy is for people who are too weak to solve their problems on their own. On top of that, being queer was definitely not something you could talk about in public – especially with a stranger. I had internalized both feelings for years, but I was finally ready to move on. Six years later, I still see the strange non-binary therapist that Hannah recommended to me that night. The fact that, two years later, Hannah also introduced me to my fiancé seems quite fitting because queerness is about community. We look out for each other – in all aspects of our lives. And often it is only through the other that we are able to find reliable, gay-friendly, gender-affirming therapy. While it’s easy enough for a therapist to add “queer-friendly” to their Psychology Today bio, it can be harder to tell if they’re queer themselves. But a lot of queer people only want to see a queer therapist – myself past included. I figured that was the only way to find out if he was a safe person I could voice my gender questions to. That’s why so many queer people respond by word of mouth. Having a queer friend with a recommendation was a game-changer for me as it meant I could trust that person could help me competently. It’s also why some queer therapists simply disclose their relevant identities to clients early on. Shortly before meeting my therapist, Adina Rudin, a single mom from New Jersey, was starting her own mental health journey. She was in the process of a divorce while dating, and her friend, a mental health professional, offered to refer her to a therapist whenever she was ready. “I was very suspicious of therapy. I wasn’t convinced this was something that was going to work for me, ”recalls Rudin. “I was like, I don’t know how I’m going to talk to someone I don’t know from a hole in the wall about my issues, and how they’re going to help me. But one day Rudin, who is a teacher, felt like she was going to collapse at work. She found an opportunity to apologize and immediately called her friend. “I walked out of the classroom and said, ‘Okay, I think it’s about time; I need to talk to someone, ”she said. Rudin said she had specific ideas about what she needed from a therapist. First and foremost, she wanted someone who was gay friendly. Her friend recommended her to a local therapist, who, when they first met, revealed her sexuality to Rudin almost immediately. “I guess she needed me 1,000% to know up front that she was gay friendly, and she told me about his wife in that first session. I immediately felt better and I was like, okay, at least I know I can trust her, and she isn’t going to be weird talking about things. The therapist also revealed to Rudin, who grew up in a modern Orthodox Jewish community, that she had an equally pious religious childhood. Rudin still sees this therapist and gives her credit for helping her find the language she identifies with, embraces the fact that sexuality is a spectrum, and deals with her religious upbringing. This is exactly the kind of story Genna Ayres loves to hear. Ayres, a licensed master social worker (LMSW) in New York City, identifies as non-binary and says 100% of their private clients happen to be queer. Ayres has found her own therapists (a private therapist and a couples therapist) on the Manhattan Alternative site, for “kink, poly, trans and LGBTQ-affirmative providers,” and knows how important it is to be able to talk to someone. one who understands their identity. “Being able to talk to these two people about my identity and the things that are going on in my relationship, things to come for my gender, and all of that without having to explain anything has been so precious and it makes me feel feel so safe, “they say.” That’s all I ever wanted for my clients, to make them feel safe enough to be themselves. But Ayres admitted that “self-disclosure is a hotly debated topic in the world of therapy. ”The ethics of a mental health professional sharing details of their personal life is an ever-evolving area of ​​discussion and consideration. A training video created by the ‘American Psychological Association of Graduate Students emphasizes the importance of therapists carefully examining their motivations before talking about their identity to a patient. There is a risk that, as the video says, “the therapist identifies too much with the client. or find that its own problems spill over into the session ”. That said, with the proper boundaries, many people see the value of a therapist revealing their particular sexual orientation and gender identity. Ayres, for example, says they find that being open about their own identity helps make many customers more comfortable, especially if they are dealing with any aspect of their identity. None of this means that queer people can’t be helped by a therapist who doesn’t identify as queer, or that just because your therapist is queer or says on their website that they offer therapy. LGBTQ + claim, they are definitely equipped to treat you. . It’s important to make sure that any mental health professional you see is the right fit for you and your needs, which is why Ayres suggests having a first call with a therapist to ask any questions you have. need to feel comfortable before starting treatment. And it’s okay to stop seeing a therapist anytime, even after you’ve started working with them. “If you feel like you’re not connecting with the therapist, the therapist isn’t connecting with you, and that’s not a good solution,” Ayres says. “If you don’t get along with your therapist, why would you listen to everything he says to you?” But for queer people, going to a therapist who isn’t at least unfamiliar with queer issues can be downright harmful. “I just heard so many horror stories from trans friends who are with a therapist who continually despises them when their only reason for being in therapy is to talk about their transness,” notes Jace Covert. They experienced it themselves: After being sexist several times in their own doctor’s office last summer, Covert launched a site called Grapevine. The site allows people in any city in the United States to anonymously leave reviews for healthcare providers in all areas. The genius part? There is a space in the referral form where the reviewer submits how they identify themselves. This way, a black transgender woman, for example, will have a safe and trustworthy review of a provider by another person with the same identity. “I wanted it to be more thoughtful and intentional,” says Covert, adding that they wanted their site to feel like a safe community for its visitors. About a third of the submissions Covert currently has on the site are referrals for mental health care providers, but they hope to create a more robust rolodex as they build the site – because, they say, it works. . “What’s surprising is that I put my therapist as a person on it, and it’s by no means robust, but she said she had so many people contacting her through Grapevine. Says Covert. “So there is a deep need for queer people who seek safe spaces for mental health.” In addition to sites like Manhattan Alternative and Grapevine, social media has also become a resource for queer people seeking therapy. Ayres says that during quarantine, TikTok in particular gave queer people access to a community of people who talk and normalize therapy, and may even offer a way for people considering finding a therapist. The creators who make up the content for TherapyTok include licensed mental health providers and people who simply offer advice on their own therapy experience. Those curious about therapy may feel comfortable getting in touch with these people in the comments or DMs. Queer people also turn to these communities for advice on finding affordable therapy – and many queer-friendly therapists are finding ways to make therapy more accessible to their patients. Ayres, for example, offers a deferred payment option on their site. Covert has hope for the future and this “queer renaissance” of grassroots organization and community efforts that we have seen in the LGBTQIA + community during this terrible year. Providers, like Ayres, want to see their community taken care of, now and always. For anyone who doesn’t have their own Hannah, ready with a therapist referral on hand, there is hope: your queer community loves you and wants to provide you with the resources you need, whether through social media, online networks, or recommendations that are shouted because of loud music being played during a face-to-face meeting. It’s just what we do. Like what you see? How about a little more R29 goodness, here? Yes, Prince Harry is definitely in therapy


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About Larry Struck

Larry Struck

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