MMN 020: Counseling LGBT College Students – with Leticia Flores

On this episode of the Make a Mental Note podcast, Leticia Flores, a licensed psychologist and associate director of the University of Tennessee Psychological Training Clinic, discusses issues with which LGBT college students contend and methods of helping them experience success in college and life. Give it a listen and find out why this episode is worthy of a mental note!

Leticia Flores interview (click on Leticia’s name to listen to interview)

Mental Notes:

* Clients (including University of Tennessee students) can be seen at the UT Psychological Training Clinic for a reduced fee.

* Poverty can have a negative impact on mental health.

* Sexual orientation/gender identity is sometimes the primary issue of therapy while other times an LGBT client may simply require assistance with a non-sexual orientation/gender identity issue.

* Some individuals who come into therapy have known for a long time that they liked people of the same sex (or both sexes) while in other cases they are just starting to explore these issues when they arrive at college.

* Religious beliefs may be part of the discussion with clients who are trying to make sense of their sexual orientation/gender identity. In some cases, students who “come out of the closet” may be rejected by family members and their social group.

* If students are struggling with coming to terms with an LGBT identity then they might engage in behaviors that go against their way of being. In some cases, this results in anxiety, depression, feelings of alienation, and substance abuse.

* It is not uncommon for adolescents to feel that something is wrong with them when they try out a relationship with opposite sex partners, but do not feel that they “fit” and are attracted to someone of the same sex (or both sexes).

* A large percentage of these clients have experienced discrimination – even dating back to elementary school with bullying – and shut down/do not feel it is safe for them to express who they are.

* National statistics indicate that there is a high incidence of substance use in the LGBT population. This is not a by-product of their identity, but is a form of self-medication to deal with the trauma and/or emotional pain from harassment and discrimination.

* Recipe for therapy success…it is important to find what clients want (i.e., goal) and what their needs so as to determine the best course of action to help get them what they want. Also, figuring out where they are developmentally in terms of their sexual orientation/gender identity is key.

* Challenges in training students to work with LGBT clients: Helping students-in-training to identify their beliefs, prejudices, and biases (i.e., how students understand LGBT clients); dealing with values conflicts; and identifying the source of their discomfort in working with LGBT clients are all key factors. In addition, it is important for students-in-training to come to the understanding that therapy is not about meeting their needs, but is about meeting the needs of the client and keeping their best interest at the forefront.

* Challenges in working with LGBT clients: Trust. A lot of these clients have experienced discrimination, harassment and/or hostility so they need to know that the therapist is allied with them and continuously trying to understand what they are going through and where they are coming from. Also, if clients are engaging in a lot of substance use/abuse to cope with what is going on then that gets in the way of good therapy work then this needs to be addressed. A harm reduction approach may help these clients reduce their use of substances so they can be present to deal with difficult issues that are discussed in therapy.

* Watching movies and reading memoirs/personal accounts of individuals who are dealing with sexual orientation/gender identity issues is a good way to learn more about this population.

* Mental health tip: Cutting ourselves a break/forgiving ourselves for flaws and weaknesses is important.

Mental Notes Takeaway:

* Exploring and identifying one’s sexual orientation/identity is a developmental process. Sometimes LGBT clients experience harassment and discrimination throughout the course of this process, which may create problems for them socially and psychologically and motivate them to seek out counseling services.

Check It Out:

* UT Psychological Training Clinic – psychclinic.utk.edu

* The Gender Quest Workbook – Rylan Testa, Deborah Coolheart, Jayme Peta, Ryan Sallans and Arlene Istar-Lev – https://www.newharbinger.com/gender-quest-workbook

* American Psychological Association LGBT Resources and Publications – http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/

 

 



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