I’ve no idea how much contact TFTers have had with gay people, but I’ve been asked to share a little of my work here in the UK.
I’ve spent almost 30 years (pretty much my entire professional career as a therapist) specialising in working with gender and sexual minority clients and about a decade ago I established what is now the largest independent therapy organisation in the UK which aims to offer nonpathologising therapies to gender and sexual minority clients.
Many of you will know this group as LGBT or LGBTIQ or something similar (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, Intersex and Queer/Questioning), although our remit is broader than just these groups.
Traditionally lesbian, gay and bisexual people have higher levels of mental health distress than heterosexuals, they experience higher levels of depression and anxiety and of alcohol and drug misuse (King & McKeown 2003) and parasuicide and deliberate self harm is also significantly higher (King et al 2008). This is probably due to living within a society which privileges heterosexuality and pathologises same sex desires and relationships.
I was somewhat stunned by recent British research (Bartlett et al 2009) who found that 1:6 of their sample of 1328 of counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists had agreed to enter contracts for reducing same sex desires and 4% had agreed to help cure people of their homosexuality, despite homosexuality being removed from the manual as a mental illness in 1994 by WHO and in 1983 by the American Psychiatric Association) DSM III.
Our website hosts the only public listing in Britain of ‘gay friendly’ counsellors and psychotherapists, qualified therapists in private practice who adopt a non pathologising view of human sexuality and sexual diversity. The Directory of Pink Therapists comprise both sexual minority therapists as well as heterosexual therapists and come from a wide range of theoretical models and training programmes.
We are just about to relaunch this UK Directory to include complementary therapists as well as to make the Directory international so that someone wanting to find a lesbian friendly acupuncturist in Arkansas or a a transsexual friendly counsellor in Manchester will be able to do so.
I’d really welcome TFT practitioners who wish to register their practice to sign up and the Directory is created so you can sign up online and update and maintain your entry yourself.
One of our other major areas of activity is in providing training for therapists in understanding more about gender and sexual minorities.
Last year we ran over 40 workshops, this coming year we’re scaling down the programme a bit both due to the credit crunch and the amount of work it takes to run such an extensive programme. I have been running Pink Therapy virtually single handed for all this time and this year I’m planning to turn it into a non-profit Social Enterprise so that we can apply for external funding to undertake many of the projects we have learned of. TFT has been such an amazing addition to my skills set and I’ve managed to integrate it into my regular therapy practice with around 70% of my clients now receiving a mixture of TFT and regular talking therapy.
I’ve had some amazing successes that I’d like to share.
I had a young female to male (FtM) transexual who had been breast binding for four years as they were too scared to schedule their mastectomy due to a needle phobia and childhood trauma. They were also having to take buccal (oral) testosterone which had caused gum erosion as they were obviously too scared to inject testosterone.
Working with Another FtM client we managed to significantly reduce his grief at not having a penis (phalloplasty is still very rudimentary, complex and expensive and most FtM’s don’t pursue this operation).
I’ve worked a lot with people who have been sexually abused and very recently managed to complete in just a couple of sessions the sequelae of the sexual abuse trauma of a gay man who’d been orally raped at 14. This was achieved within two sessions and amazed us both. We worked for a few more sessions on some other issues and he left feeling much more in control of his life (and his obsession with chocolate)!
Some people have been reluctant to try TFT or have tried it and not wanted to continue. They’re either skeptical, heavily reversed or enjoy some secondary gains from their problems and prefer to just come and talk each week.
I’ve had to learn to be with my frustration about this and respect their wishes knowing I could probably help them better with TFT!
I really would encourage any of you who have experience of working with gender and sexual minority clients from a non-pathologising perspective to get in touch with me and consider joining our Directory.
Bartlet, A., Smith, G., and King, M (2009) The response of mental health professionals to clients seeking help to change or redirect same-sex sexual orientation. London: Available for download: http://www.pinktherapy.com/downloadables/King_research_therapist_attitudes.pdf
King, M and McKeown, D (2003) Mental health and social well-being of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in England and Wales London: Mind available for download here:
King, M. Semelyn, J, See Tai, S, Killaspy, H, Osborn, D, Popelyuk, D, Nazareth, I. (2008) A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:70 available for download: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-244X/8/70
Dominic Davies is co-editor (with Charles Neal) of three volumes of the Pink Therapy textbooks (Open University Press, 1996&2000) and was made a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for his significant contribution to the field. He has trained to TFT Adv, (Optimal Health) level and is solely in private practice in Central London.