Helping Kids, Families, Adults & LGBTQ with Care for Over 25 Years

Michelle Topal MSW, LCSW

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"If the day ever came when we were able to accept ourselves and our children exactly as we are and they are, I believe we would have come to an understanding of what "good parenting" means."
-Fred Rogers

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Does My Therapist Get It?: Finding a Qualified Therapist for LGBTQ

I just came back from the NASW Annual Ethics Workshop.  This year it was on working with LGBTQ clients; helping social workers understand the history of "treatment" of LGBTQ people in the psychiatric community & this culture, understanding the needs of LGBTQ on the clients based cultural issues that face LGBTQ clients & social workers/therapists ethical obligations in working with LGBTQ people.  Both the APA & the NASW & social work licensing board ethical guidelines are clear that providers must practice within their scope of knowledge/training.  This includes not only being knowledgeable about clinical issues, but also being culturally competent to work  whatever group with whom you are offering services.  As one of the out gay LCSW presenters put it in his presentation, "it's not enough to be gay-friendly, you need to be competent". 

In finding the ideal therapist, make sure you find a therapist who is more than just accepting and LGBT affirmative (a lack of bigotry does not make them qualified), but that they understand the unique needs of those who are LGBTQ (individuals or couples/families), and the complexities of sexual identity/ orientation. It’s important that if you seek help, that you talk with someone who sees that their are cultural issues that may make your experience different than someone who experiences themselves as exclusively heterosexual. So, don't hesitate to ask the therapist what their qualifications are & what training & experience they have had in issues of: sexuality; sexual orientation/identity, including bisexuality (or the continuum);  LGBTQ cultural & social issues; involvement & understanding of the LGBT community; the history of the "gay liberation movement" & the social & psychiatric treatment of homosexuality; coming out issues; & homophobia, just to name a few.   

This is not to imply there is something wrong or problematic with being LGBTQ, because sexual orientation & identity are complex biological, emotional & cultural issues that are normal/healthy parts of our selves as human/sexual beings.  But issues of homophobia have a long history & are a cultural and personal reality for many LGBT people due to systemic homophobia (societal, religious, political & medical, etc).  It’s important that the therapist you and/or your family sees, is informed and sensitive to that possible difference in experience. (Click here to learn more about the APA guidelines for a therapist to be competent to provide therapy to LGBQ clients).

You are not alone & there are several of us therapists in this area that meet these qualifications & ethical guidelines.  I’d be happy to talk with you about your specific needs. Just give me a call, so we can talk about how I can help. Given my extensive experience in & with the LGBT community, and my educational background in understanding issues of sexuality, I think I can offer you the respect, understanding and informed perspective that may help you find peace and self acceptance. However, if I'm not the right fit, I will help you find someone who is.

Click here to learn more about my counseling and psychotherapy experience & qualifications.

Click here to learn more about the APA guidelines for a therapist to be competent to provide therapy to LGBQ clients.