This Is the final part of the interview with psychologist Susan Gitau on LGBTI and mental health.
The first part of the interview is available here and was done to commemorate this years’ World Mental Health Day
Q: About the stages of sexual development of LGBT persons and identities that you have explained above, can you share any useful insights on them?
Those in stages four and five are likely trying to reinvent themselves with this newfound acceptance. They may be seeking out gay friends, engaging in sexual behaviour less discriminately, or ‘shouting it from the mountain tops,’ so to speak.
They have accepted their sexuality but have not yet learned to integrate this aspect of their life into their sense of self. In treatment, the strength these individuals feel should be embraced and treatment should be focused on what they can do, not to make the world accept them, but to show the world that they are worthy of acceptance.
In other words, gay parades, demonstrations, email campaigns, are all worthy efforts, but so is living an honest life, helping other people, sharing, loving, and being a friend.
Individuals in stage six are often seen as no different from most clients we see in therapy. They have accepted their sexuality, have developed relationships, and don’t see ‘gay’ as the issue, but rather as one of the many issues they deal with in an imperfect world. Being gay is often seen in a positive light.
They can now begin to give back to others, become a mentor, volunteer, run for office, or otherwise use their whole self as a means to make the world a better place.
Q: What are your views on the general treatment of LGBT persons?
Aside from issues arising from the first five stages above, treatment for homosexual clients should be no different than any other client. In terms of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, relationship concerns, stress, and sexual issues, homosexual clients present at about the same rate as their counterparts and treatment should not be any different.
Research has, however, shown that depression is significantly higher among gay adolescents and that the suicide rate is double their straight counterpart. Suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety are also higher among those who have not accepted their sexuality or who struggle for acceptance with friends and family because of their sexual orientation.
Couples therapy should be treated no different than marital therapy, aside from the obvious legal and social issues. Any bias a therapist has will be very difficult to hide when dealing with relationship issues with a gay or lesbian client.
Their relationships should be treated with the same legitimacy as any committed relationship, and the therapist should be aware that like any sexual relationship, there may be intimacy concerns, fidelity issues, children, parents, and other issues that may be a part of treatment.
Be prepared for this and once again, refer out if you are not able to accept and respect your client.
Susan Gitau is a counseling psychologist, addiction counselor and consultant. She runs Elewa Ulevi, a drugs and substance abuse consulting agency.
by Denis Nzioka
Source – Identity Kenya