Why it’s important to have LGBTQ specific mental health spaces

The UK that people are growing up in today is significantly different from the one I grew up in. There’s LGBTQ inclusive sex and relationship ed in secondary school, acknowledgement of asexual, aromantic and the other m-spec orientations and widespread adoption of pronouns in profiles, emails, badges, etc. It’s brilliant. 

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Unfortunately, however, this progress has not eradicated the difficulties the LGBTQ community face. People are still facing stigma, prejudice, discrimination and victimisation simply for being LGBTQ. They still face isolation, rejection, violence, abuse and financial strain. Experiencing internalised homophobia, biphobia or transphobia and concerns over hiding parts of one’s own identity are not uncommon.

A recent study looking at the experiences of burnout in American medical students found that lesbian, gay and bisexual students were significantly more likely to get burnt out than straight students, even after controlling for the presence or absence of actual mistreatment. LGBTQ people are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety along with other mental health problems. Furthermore, reported incidents of domestic abuse are higher for gay and bisexual men when compared to straight men and higher for bisexual and trans women when compared to straight women. Lesbians appeared to report at the same rate as straight women.

When you consider all of this, it is obvious that any support service (but particularly those which deal with mental health) will come into contact with people from the LGBTQ community. 

But, there’s often a disconnect between the ability of mainstream services to be able to meet the needs of the LGBTQ people accessing them. It breaks my heart that even today these services are typically ill-prepared and ill-equipped to properly assist members of the community. It can be a lack of education on how LGBTQ people experience life differently than straight, cisgender people or how this affects their reasons for accessing the service in the first place.

However, there are other times when professionals actually abuse their position of authority and power to pathologise the identities and orientations of the LGBTQ people they are supposed to be supporting. Such abuse of power is harmful. Examples of this include conversion therapy and citing the person’s LGBTQ identity as a symptom of a mental or physical health problem.

This is why the UK Government needs to ban conversion therapy for all people. Because even though there has been great progress in shifting social attitudes toward acceptance - especially among the younger generations - there are still practising mental health professionals who will cause more harm to the LGBTQ people they come into contact with.

I had direct experience of attempts to pathologise my sexuality as a teenager and it is a point I am extremely passionate about. As a result of this treatment from the CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service), I didn’t reveal my orientation in any appointments with any healthcare professionals for a great number of years. No one should have to navigate that when they are accessing mental health support. Not only is it harmful, but it is also dangerous.

I do feel very strongly that having openly LGBTQ coaches, therapists, psychologists etc. makes it easier for anyone who is LGBTQ or is even just questioning their sexuality to access the appropriate support and guidance with significantly less stress. By making it clear that psychologists and coaches are also part of the LGBTQ community, we can help make therapy and coaching more inclusive. I mean this both within the professions themselves but also for the clients we serve. This is why I am here sharing some of my personal experiences as well as speaking more generally about the experiences of the LGBTQ community.

When people are allowed to be themselves, love who they love and have their experiences accepted as valid, a lot of the distress that some of the diagnoses handed down by those working with the medical model capture is eased. This allows for people to actually address the things which are causing them issues or preventing them from improving further rather than the things that the professional believes are the cause.

By opening the mental health discussion up to include everyone with and without diagnoses, we can start moving everyone closer to that state of good mental health and away from the concept that simply not being mentally ill is good enough.

When people are able to bring their full selves to the therapeutic or coaching relationship, so much is possible. That is when real progress and transformation happen. One of the core things that is needed when someone is struggling with something is acceptance. If I am not accepting of my clients, they’re not going to open up to me and that then turns what could have been a fantastic opportunity for them to grow, heal and make amazing changes into, at best, a waste of both of our time.

When acceptance is there, it’s a whole different story and clients grow, heal and flourish. Acceptance is what allows feelings, thoughts, experiences, beliefs and values to be brought out into the light and embraced, held or changed. It really is one of the main ingredients of successful therapy and successful coaching. An openly LGBTQ professional or a service that is openly supportive of the LGBTQ community is a beacon to those who need to be sure of that acceptance from the very start.

Being open with a coach can be daunting. But it is through this openness and vulnerability that you can truly make the big (and little) changes in your life which will allow your heart to soar and your dreams to become reality. Working with a coach can be the difference between a mediocre, OK life and an authentic life that really speaks to the core of who you are. An authentic life fills you up and lets your light shine through for all to see.

I am incredibly passionate about providing those who are LGBTQ or who are unsure/questioning a safe space to go in order to build their positive, fulfilling and happy life. I know what is at stake and what can be achieved. If you are looking to make changes in your life and you are LGBTQ, there are more people like me who are openly supportive and offer fully inclusive services these days. It is getting easier to find the right space for you and that is a huge positive. Even if your identity or orientation isn’t part of the problem, an inclusive, supportive service can offer you greater benefits than the more mainstream ones.

Send me an email or a message if you would like to find out how I can best help you.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6
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Written by Carole Carter, Coaching Psychologist, BSc (Hons), MRes, MBPsS
Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6

Carole Diane Carter, BSc(Hons), MRes, MBPsS, is a Maidenhead based coaching psychologist and hypnotherapist who works with LGBTQ people (including those who are questioning, curious or unsure) in a bespoke, personalised manner so they can improve their mental health and their life in general. She is an open member of the LGBTQ community herself.

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