As a SonderMind clinician, understanding clients’ unique needs is key to providing care that drives better outcomes. That’s why we’re sharing insights from Lisetta Thomas, LPC, a SonderMind therapist and member of the LGBTQIA+ community. In the following Q&A with Lisetta, she shares her experiences and observations regarding the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ clients, and how clinicians can best support this community as a whole.
I am one of those people who has known since I was five that I was different. I did not have a label for my difference for a long time. I was blessed that I somehow found my way into a group of friends who were loving and accepting of my being a lesbian. At least most of them were. I came out my last year in college.
After ending my first relationship, I discovered Union Theological Seminary in New York. They believed that lesbians and gay men were called to the ministry just like everyone else, so I quit my job teaching, applied, and was accepted. I moved to New York for my M. Div. and then started working on my degree in counseling.
I add this information often to my story because I have found our community to be very "spiritual." I became a minister to make the religious community more accessible to LGBTQIA+ members and allow them the spiritual experience I’ve had.
As a clinician, I have worked with the LGBTQIA+ community for over 20 years. Working with individuals and couples, I have found the needs of this community to be much the same as the needs of the heterosexual community. However, our community experiences a greater level of trauma from their life experiences.
The rejection of members of the LGBTQIA+ community by parents, siblings, and friends has improved immensely, however in the last four years, this acceptance has seen a reversal as we have gone from progress to new ways of persecution. The isolation, job loss, and trauma can be devastating. This type of persecution and the trauma it produces brings many clients to therapy. Helping to restore self-esteem, self-image, confidence, and hope are an important first step in the therapeutic process.
Today, the basic rights of the LGBTQIA+ community are being endangered.
Clinicians need to know how to handle such attacks and its impact on clients. The general public is not educated about the experiences of the transgender community. As clinicians, we play a role in helping to educate and protect those that are persecuted by an uninformed general public. We first must educate ourselves and then clients.
Moreover, It’s important to connect clients to clinicians who are best suited to work with the LGBTQIA+ community. A clinician cannot be effective with LGBTQIA+ clients if they have not addressed their own implicit or explicit biases. Ethical practice with these clients includes practicing within the scope of competence and providing affirmative care. If a clinician cannot provide supportive therapy aligned with the client’s values, they should strongly consider referring the client to someone who can to avoid further harm.
We must educate ourselves, clients, and the general public at every opportunity. We must not forget the history of the persecution we have already lived through. And we must address our own biases and ensure we have the education and training to provide the right clinical support to the LGBTQIA+ community.
At SonderMind, we’re here to support clinicians in providing high-quality, evidence-based care that meets the mental health needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and all clients. That’s why as a SonderMind clinician, you get access to resources to ensure you’re supported in delivering high-quality care every step of the way. Check out these articles to further your knowledge and enhance your skills to best serve clients and their unique needs:
SonderMind invests in our clinicians’ success and continued development, including access to career-building opportunities, trainings, peer consultations, CEs, and resources for delivering effective measurement-based care. If you’re seeking to improve your knowledge, awareness, and skills when conducting clinical work with the LGBTQIA+ community and want to drive effective care through evidence-based practices, join SonderMind to get the support you need to reach these goals and more.