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What is gay affirmative therapy?
Gay affirmative therapy aims to embrace non-pathological ways of viewing homosexuality and working supportively and positively with gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Maylon says gay affirmative therapy “represents a special range of psychological knowledge, which challenges the traditional view, that homosexual desire and fixed homosexual orientations are pathological… This approach regards homophobia, as opposed to homosexuality, as a major pathological variable in the development of certain symptomatic conditions among gay men” (Maylon, 1982). Sexual minority therapy in its wider sense can also include work with minority groups that fall outside the definition of gay, lesbian or bisexual, such as transgender individuals or people who have less usual sexual preferences and practices.
People belonging to a sexual minority access therapy or counselling for a variety of reasons, often other than those directly connected with their sexual orientation or minority status – which may or may not be relevant to the presenting issue. However, it is important that the counsellor or therapist is aware of the potential factors that are likely to have affected the client who identifies themselves as belonging to a sexual minority, and the issues that may arise during the therapy, to insure the most appropriate, safe and effective support and therapeutic intervention in helping the client to deal with their distress and to achieve their desired outcomes.
The therapist working with sexual minority individuals needs to be aware of the following factors that are likely to have impacted on the client in the past and may continue to be present and significant to them. Homophobia (defined by Stonewall as “the irrational hatred, intolerance and fear of LGB people”) and heterosexism (“bias shown by a society or community where cultural institutions and individuals are conditioned to expect everyone to live and behave as heterosexuals”) may occur on interpersonal, institutional and societal levels. Non-heterosexual people have been portrayed as “abnormal”, “perverted” and (historically in the UK and currently in some other countries) “criminal”, and have been stigmatised, oppressed and excluded. This is likely to impact the affected individual’s self-esteem and self-worth, and can lead to internal conflicts and to internalised homophobia and self-hatred. A number of studies have shown that common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal feelings are more prevalent among LGBT community, and the link was drawn between internalised homophobia and high rates of drug and alcohol dependency (Health Education Authority, 1998; Warner et al., 2004).
I am registered with the Pink Therapy Directory (a register of psychotherapists and counsellors who work with LGBT clients in an affirmative way), have undertaken specialist training in Sexual Minority Therapy with Salford College and am working towards being accredited as a Sexual Diversity Therapist.
Appointments are available at my clinics in Glossop, High Peak (Derbyshire) and in Mossley (Lancashire) - both venues are around 30 minutes drive or a train ride from the centre of Manchester. Online and telephone consultations may be available subject to suitability - please enquire.
Sources of information & support
Lesbian & Gay Foundation www.lgf.org.uk
Princess House, 105-107 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD; Tel: 0161 235 8035
PLUS (People Like Us Stockport) www.stockportplus.org
Out Everywhere www.outeverywhere.com An online chat site (non-sex) that also gives access to social activity groups up and down the country.
Pink Therapy www.pinktherapy.com Directory of therapists and counsellors who work with sexual minority clients from an affirmative standpoint.
Stonewall www.stonewall.org.uk A campaining organisation with an informative website, which can put you in touch with sources of advice and support.
Recommended book for therapists and counsellors
If you buy the book through the link below it will result in me receiving a small commission from Amazon. This will help towards funding discounted treatment for people who cannot afford to pay the full fee.