Happy Pride Month: Reflections on LGBTQ+ Mental Health from a Queer Therapist and Client
It is June again; that time of year when we take time to intentionally celebrate the experiences, narratives, and lives of LGBTQ+ individuals. I first want to offer a fully supportive, embracing, emphatic message – HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! Thank you so much for being proudly you! No matter your identities, outness, labels, or lack thereof, Matone Counseling and Testing and I want to affirm you and thank you for taking the time to read this piece. Writing in a deserted coffee shop, I find myself reflecting on how to approach a mental health article dedicated to LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Do I take the position of a removed therapist and former researcher, that of a client, or that of someone with lived experience in this realm? Here is a shot at a home run – melding all three in an effort to capture as many perspectives as possible.
As many studies show, LGBTQ+ individuals experience increased mental health concerns when compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and substance use are often found in our community. Importantly, these features do not exist simply because someone is LGBTQ+; rather many studies display that social stigma, lack of acceptance, and other psychosocial circumstances are the key factors to understanding underlying causes of higher rates of LGBTQ+ mental health concerns. These difficulties may also be further exacerbated if one has other intersectional, oppressed identities. The good news is that LGBTQ+ individuals often report improvements when they attend counseling with affirming therapists. As someone who works with many LGBTQ+ clients, I have seen so many individuals come away with a greater sense of self, make improvements to their mental health, and lead lives they could not initially fathom. I have had the privilege of sharing space with people through coming out processes, relational difficulties and healing, gender affirmation, and overarching mental health improvement. The resilience of our community is unfathomable, and so many lead growth-fostering, authentic lives with and without the help of therapists.
I will be transparent in saying that I am someone who struggles with chronic anxiety and intermittent depressive episodes. I want anyone who reads this to know that I am not only a psychologist but have been the client of multiple therapists. I have had very positive experiences with counselors, who have helped me in my mental health journey while integrating all the identities I bring into my everyday life. Unfortunately, I have also had the opposite experience and know how invalidating it was to feel misunderstood. Counseling is different than many other health-oriented services. Research demonstrates that one of the key components of progress for any client is the client-therapist relationship, and I would argue that is even more important for LGBTQ+ individuals. We must feel safe, heard, and accepted in order to work through any concerns we bring to the room. I have been lucky enough to have multiple positive counseling relationships and am a huge advocate of therapy for other LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Lived Experience
I live my life as an “out” queer person, and I know not all others have the space, safety, or privilege to welcome others into parts of their identities. I am also aware that some states have various initiatives to allow therapists, among other medical professionals, exemptions from treating us as clients. It is clear that although our society has progressed in its understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, we have not reached a fully equitable position. I reiterate that equity becomes even less a reality when someone has intersectional, marginalized identities. I also want to recognize again that this is PRIDE MONTH! Despite the difficulties many LGBTQ+ individuals face, we have just as many successes and just as many overwhelmingly joyful experiences that should be celebrated, and therapy can actually be just that – a celebration.
As a queer psychologist who is part of this practice, I can attest that we at Matone Counseling and Testing are affirming and embrace the LGBTQ+ community no matter a client’s needs, and I am proud to be a part of it. We have clinicians who can support you in embracing yourself, inviting others into your experience, general mental health concerns that come with life, relational concerns, gender affirming processes, and much more. We are comprised of many allies and members of the community, and I can assure you that we will offer you a supportive space to be you – proudly! We actively stay abreast of the current LGBTQ+ experiences, narratives, and language and continue to challenge ourselves to grow as therapists. If you feel like you need support or just want someone to affirm you, please contact us at 704-503-8196.
HAPPY PRIDE! Thank you for being you!
Colton Brown, PhD, HSP-P