07 Jul How to Create a Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Loved Ones with Addiction
Members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination and microaggression every day. Language is the single-most overt way we can express our attitudes toward individuals who are bisexual, lesbian, gay or transgender, and all it takes is one staff member or a random person to say something wrong to ruin the entire treatment experience for a client who is seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction.
Are You Aware of Your Own Bias?
In the 21st century, we can pride ourselves in being non-discriminatory or unbiased toward people of any gender or sexual identity, but little do we know that the underlying attitudes we subconsciously hold toward certain orientations can come out in our speech. We may not even be aware that the words we’re saying are subtly affecting someone within earshot. Dr. Derald Wing Sue of Columbia University describes “microaggressions” as “experiences…that are so subtle that neither victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand what’s going on.” Subtle and unintentional as they may be, they are just as harmful as overt expressions of heterosexism.
Do any of these microaggressions sound familiar to you?
• “That’s so gay!”
• “You shouldn’t be so flamboyant.”
• “He’s not a typical gay guy” (assuming there’s a stereotype to fulfill)
• “Wow my ‘gaydar’ must be way off”
• Staring at a same-sex couple holding hands as they walk
• Dropping the “F” bomb in the same way people would drop the racist “N” bomb
• “You don’t look gay” (like that’s supposed to be a compliment)
• Going to your gay or bisexual friends for fashion advice, assuming they wouldn’t be interested in sports or other ‘masculine’ interests
• “How can a pretty girl like you be a lesbian?”
• “You’re gay but you go to church?”
• “That outfit is so gay!”
Walking in Your Loved Ones’ Shoes
It’s hard to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes if you have never personally experienced discrimination based on your gender identity or sexual orientation. The first step to understanding (and really, to promote love and resilience) is to be aware that members of the LGBTQ community represent a very diverse group. How they experience their identity is highly individualistic, and whether they choose to disclose themselves (i.e., “come out”) will depend on how sensitive they are to adversity or how safe they feel with you and their environment. There is no “one-size-fits-all” terminology to describe the non-homogeneous population of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals.
How Discrimination Affects Motivation to Seek Help
The first form of discrimination experienced by individuals, in most cases, comes from their families. High rates of depression, suicidal ideation, illicit substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors have been linked to family rejection of LGBTQ individuals (Ryan, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2009). In addition to personal and familial prejudices endured by individuals, they also face inequity on state and federal levels. For example, in states where same-sex marriages are banned, it’s difficult for couples to access their partners’ health care insurance to receive the medical attention they need. The societal culture in which we live does not make it any easier for people to openly disclose themselves; a survey examining responses to negative media messages and negative conversations, negative amendment-related affect, and LGB activism reveals significantly more minority stress and psychological distress (Rostosky, Riggle, Horne, & Miller, 2009).
LGBTQ Community Friendly Substance Abuse Treatment
Harvard defines “implicit attitude” as “positive and negative evaluations that are much less accessible to our conscious awareness and/or control.” Implicit attitudes are the underlying force behind implicit preferences; a case study published in The American Journal of Public Health showed that among heterosexual health care providers, implicit preferences for heterosexual clients over non-heterosexual clients were pervasive (Sabin, Riskind & Nosek, 2015).
A successful dual diagnosis treatment center employs a multidisciplinary, culturally competent team of clinicians that are devoted to their clients’ wellness, regardless of their background. One significant factor indicating a welcoming environment for clients is the presence of employees who are also members of the LGBTQ community. You can also tell that a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center is LGBTQ community friendly when…
• Clinicians and staff members show respect by asking transgender clients about the words and pronouns by which clients refer to themselves
• The treatment facility’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation and gender identity
• Intake forms include optional sexual orientation and gender identity questions and explain how the information would be used
• Cultural competency training is provided for all staff members, including front desk employees, substance abuse counselors and licensed addiction and behavioral health professionals.
New Method Wellness offers a wide array of specialized services that are designed to meet the specific needs of our clients, including the LGBTQ community. We provide a safe space for recovery for those struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring disorders associated with substance use disorders. Frequently recommended by Dr. Phil and A & E’s Intervention, New Method Wellness is recognized for the success of its holistic and dual diagnosis treatment programs.
For more information about our programs, call 866.951.1824 today!
Rostosky, S. S., Riggle, E. D. B., Horne, S. G., & Miller, A. D. (2009). Marriage amendments and psychological distress in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56(1), 56–66.