Do you struggle as an LGBT person?
· Are you confused about your sexuality?
· Having difficulty with same sex relationships?
· Feeling alone in your family?
· Hiding who you are from others?
It is more common than not to struggle with these kinds of challenges if you are in the LGBT community. The lesbian gay bisexual transgender community has come a long way in their struggle for equal rights and equal dignity. I work with many LGBT people on issues that are both common to the general population (i.e. relationships, career, mood, addictions, etc.) and those issues that are specific to the LGBT community (coming out issues, family conflict with regards to sexual orientation / lifestyle, the psychological wounding that happens when a person is not accepted for their sexuality, etc.) The unique challenges of being LGBT are only recently being fully understood and treated.
Why am I so troubled as a LGBT person?
Members of the LGBT community often suffer from the lack of role modeling, guidance, phase of life rituals and acceptance that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy in childhood. These can include: dating, sharing relationship stories with peers, asking parents about sex, proms, etc. When these needs are not met you can easily fall into a self-defeating pattern of isolation, shame, despondency, codependency, substance abuse, depression, issues with self-esteem, relationship conflicts, money/career problems, etc.
Therapy can and should be a place to get your unmet needs for acceptance and understanding met. When they are met, you are more positioned to achieve your goals in life that come from self acceptance— whether those goals are marriage, a strong sense of self, a fulfilling career, financial stability, or relief from painful mood disorders.
If you are part of the LGBT community, it is important to have a therapist who is sensitive and knowledgeable about what you are dealing with. In my career as a therapist I have worked with many LGBT individuals and couples. I have lead workshops at the LGBT center in Los Angeles and done extensive training on the issues particular to the LGBT community.
What Are The Tools You Use to Help Me?
In is often said that we form our sense of self and beliefs about the world from our relationship with others—primarily the family. When you get your unmet needs for acceptance provided in the therapeutic relationship, change can occur with the relationship with self and your ability to achieve goals. For this reason the primary form of therapy I use is Humanistic. The core of Humanistic Therapy states that what you need to heal and integrate past trauma and come into a sense of well-being is to have another person in your life (i.e. the therapist) that can provide you with the unconditional positive regard that was lacking in your early years. In this experience of unconditional positive regard you are most capable of healing, self-actualization, and love. The needs for unconditional positive regard are very significant for you as a member of the LGBT community. This is due to the inordinate amount of rejection you face when encountering the homophobic prejudices still prevalent in today’s society. In Humanistic therapy you increase your capacity for choice, creativity, responsibility, and self-acceptance.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will also be used to understand the beliefs and behaviors that are holding you back as a LGBT person. When you change the thoughts and behaviors that are debilitating your confidence and follow through, your capacity to achieve goals is greatly increased. Together we will set goals between sessions for you to actualize the change you want. Therapy is sometimes criticized for being full of insights that lead to little change. In recovery circles there is a saying that, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” With behavioral goals and accountability to those goals we will work to actually change your life in the way you want.
In addition to being trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I am a certified Strategic Intervention Life Coach. Life coaching is very behavioral based and is also geared toward goal fulfillment.
Self-compassion is a powerful tool you will also learn to heal your relationship with self as a LGBT person. You’ve probably suffered an extreme amount of rejection and shame in your life as a member of the LGBT community. This rejection is often internalized as a sense of low self-esteem or even self-loathing. With self-compassion you will learn three basic tools:
1. The first is Mindfulness. You will learn to be with your pain without a shame-based story attached to it. In this way you can hold your pain with a sense of neutrality and objective observation. Your feelings can be a part of your experience and not define who you are as a person. For example, the belief that “I am a lonely unwanted person because I’m gay”, can be replaced with, “I’m feeling lonely right now. I can be with the loneliness and feel compassion for myself.” While this may sound like a simplistic difference, shifting from being over-identified with a feeling of loneliness (i.e. I’m a lonely, unwanted person) to a neutral observer who can accept and embrace the feeling (i.e. I’m feeling lonely, let me embrace this feeling) can greatly reduce the toxic shame that inhibits you from achieving what you want in life. When you move from feeling ashamed about yourself to simply allowing yourself to feel, your sense of security and confidence begins to increase as well as your ability to make better choices .
2. The second component of Self-Compassion is Common Humanity. You will learn to use your pain to connect yourself to others instead of increasing your sense of aloneness and isolation. The toxic shame you carry as an LGBT person can often drive you into a sense of isolation when you are challenged with difficult obstacles. People in the LGBT community are uniquely isolated and alone in childhood. While other minorities generally have family members to identify with, members of the LGBT community often grow up “closeted”, exacerbating their sense of shame and fear. When you learn to connect your painful emotions to others, you alleviate the sense of isolation and restore belongingness and self-acceptance.
3. The last part of Self-Compassion is Kindness. You will learn to replace self-judgment with an attitude of Kindness toward your “inner child.” The inner child is a metaphor for the child self we all carry inside of us that needs our attention, compassion, and acceptance. All too often LGBT people are critical and even abusive toward their inner child. Learning to speak to yourself in a kind, compassionate manner is crucial to self love. We all talk to ourselves. LGBT people are often conditioned to talk to themselves in a negative, fear based, even abusive way that leaves them depressed, anxious, and paralyzed by decision making. Don’t worry, this is just conditioning. Your inner voice can be reconditioned to be positive and supportive with the right help! In addition to being kind to yourself, you will learn how to physically self soothe, releasing oxytocin in the bloodstream—the hormone most associated with comforting.
Emotional Freedom Technique is another tool we can use to help you feel secure and confident in your life as a LGBT person. EFT or “tapping” is a relatively new technique used to alleviate anxiety, depression, and even physical discomfort. EFT works to calm the amygdala gland in the brain. The amygdala gland excretes cortisol, the stress inducing hormone, into the blood stream when we are faced with challenges. If you come from a high stress childhood, as most LGBT people do, your amygdala can be on overdrive. That is, it can be overactive during times of stress leading you into a sense of paralysis and even panic. EFT is a simple technique used to calm the brain, reduce cortisol levels, and allow you to move forward. As a LGBT person, you may even suffer from post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a childhood of rejection and abuse. This type of stress is particularly acute and can follow us from childhood exacerbating simple life challenges. EFT has been show to effectively alleviate PTSD. You will also learn how to physically comfort yourself in a way that will introduce oxytocin into your bloodstream – the self-soothing hormone. You deserve to have a fulfilled relationship as much as anyone else. Within the therapeutic experience the shame and fear that is limiting your life as a LGBT person can be healed and moved past allowing you to create greater fulfillment and love in your life.
Group therapy is an additional form of therapy I offer. Groups are especially helpful for people who come from dysfunctional families. When we come from such a family, the issues we come away with are often a direct result of the dysfunction. Group therapy operates as a kind of “functional family system.” That is, we are given the opportunity to get from the group “family” what we did not get from our family of origin. I have been leading groups for over fifteen years.
How does a group work?
My groups are Humanistic and Cognitive Behavioral in nature. That is, group members are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings about each other in a safe, non-judgmental exchange. Group members learn to rely on each other and commit to being present for each other’s work . In the group process communication skills are taught, defenses to intimacy are worked though, trust and care are established. Members are given the opportunity to set goals for the week at the end of each group. When members are looking for change, they are encouraged to take action between sessions and be held accountable by the group to achieve those changes. Group members usually report gaining greater self-acceptance, self-confidence, and quickened ability to achieve goals. They also report feeling a sense of community and belongingness that is often lacking in modern society. Group relationships are some of the closest relationships you will experience in your life due to the vulnerability, trust, and commitment required to participate in weekly meetings.
But you still might have concerns:
I’m still closeted and don’t want anyone to know.
Being in the closet is one of the most toxic ways the shame builds and gets acted out in your life. Tragically, LGBT people are often hiding due to prejudices that are based in ignorance and hatred. Therapy is an extremely confidential process. You will be safe in whatever you need to share.
I’ve been suffering for so long. Can you really help? How long is this going to take?
If you’re here chances are you’ve tried many ways to feel better and move forward that have had little success. You deserve the chance to get your life on track and experience the joy in life that has been lacking. How long treatment will take is very individual. However, people often report feeling better within a few sessions. This can be attributed to coming out of isolation and learning new coping skills that lead to greater self-acceptance. In addition, LGBT people I work with often feel an ability to get unstuck from dead end attempts at change.
What if no one can help?
Everyone is capable of change, healing, and progress in their life journey. Because you’ve been stuck in dead end attempts at changing your life does not mean you’re incapable of change. It simply means you have not found the right way to help yourself. Working together we can affect change in the direction of your fulfillment and goal achievement.
You Can Move Forward
If you are ready to get help, give me a call at 310-854-2043. I’m happy to give you a free fifteen minute phone consultation and discuss whether this is a good time for you to enter therapy. You can also get a hold of me by emailing me on the contact page of this site or by going to the link below.