Out On The Couch
Are you a mental health professional wondering how to make your office an LGBTQIA+ friendly space? Providing an inclusive space where LGBTQIA+ clients feel welcome can help them open up and feel comfortable seeking care. To help you craft an open environment where your clients can freely be themselves, here are five ways to create a welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ clients.
Use Inclusive Language
Using inclusive language is one way to make LGBTQIA+ clients feel at ease. Use language that’s inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities on your intake forms and other documentation. During first meetings, offer your own pronouns and ask clients what their personal pronouns are. Avoid using binary assumptive language like “men and women” or “ladies and gentlemen.” Instead, opt for gender-neutral terminology that acknowledges the existence of more than two gender identities. Finally, familiarize yourself with current terminology and avoid using outdated language.
Avoid Assumptions & Stereotypes
Stereotypes exist for all kinds of people, but they can be especially harmful to members of minority communities. Avoid making normative or stereotypical assumptions about your clients. Treat your client as an individual and understand that, while they may be part of a larger community, they have multiple identities outside of that community as well. These identities intersect, creating a unique life experience that one can’t put into a box.
The next way to create a welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ clients is to educate yourself. Take the time to research LGBTQIA+ identity, culture, and history. This will help you better understand your client’s perspective, experiences, and emotions.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community often feel like they need to explain and justify their experiences and feeling to others, which can be exhausting. Conversely, speaking to someone that already understands and sympathizes with the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community can be a breath of fresh air.
Recognize and Validate Stressors
Minority stress is common among members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are various factors in their lives—bullying, societal and legal discrimination, lack of access to competent healthcare—that can negatively impact their mental well-being. Due to these stressors, LGBTQIA+ adolescents and adults have an elevated risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide.
It’s crucial to understand how these factors contribute to your client’s mental and physical well-being. Acknowledge that these factors exist and validate your client’s experiences with them instead of undermining them.
Seek Continued Education in LGBTQIA+ Affirming Care
Seeking continued education can help you gain a greater understanding of how to provide competent care to the LGBTQIA+ community. The times are ever-changing, so even if you feel confident in your ability to provide LGBTQIA+ affirmative care, taking continuing education courses is a great way to keep your information up to date.
If you’re a psychotherapist or other mental health professional looking for LGBTQ continuing education courses, you’re in the right place! The Affirmative Couch provides courses for mental health professionals that want to learn how to work with the LGBTQIA+, CNM, and kink communities. Sign up for one of our courses or contact us with any questions.