While some would argue that it is not necessary for a therapist to have the same lived experience as their clients, most people agree it is easier to confide in someone who’s been there.
A newrevealed that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school and many have faced serious emotional and physical issues due to exclusion and harassment. Most of these students—and adults who face similar issues—do not know where to turn for help. The mental health community is only beginning to address the lack of resources for LGBTQ people. Fortunately, several efforts to connect LGBTQ clients and therapists are offering a first step to reducing the human and social cost of discrimination.
LGBTQ people face intense trauma on a regular basis, many living in communities where their existence elicits hate and violence. Living with constant anxiety in a world where many people literally want you dead takes a tremendous toll. LGBTQ people are 2-3 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight people. These issues are even worse for LGBTQ people of color, who face the added burden of racism in addition to inequity based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Several studies reveal that people of color are less likely to receive a call back or be offered an appointment by a therapist. No wonder black and latino people receive mental health.
Unfortunately, even when people of color or LGBTQ people can access services, they often don’t receive adequate treatment. While the mental health field is slowly becoming aware of the needs of these communities, many therapists have no experience, or rely on a “cultural competence” framework, designed to address the social and cultural experience of different communities, but which fails to tackle political and systemic issues that pervade the lives of oppressed peoples. Consequently, many providers may do more harm than good. For LGBTQ people of color, who exist at the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation, such substandard care can lead them to abandon treatment or emerge even more traumatized. The social impact of this problem is brutal. Nearly.
It is crucial that queer and trans people of color access a growing number of effective solutions. First, we need to advocate for ourselves when we are working with therapists who do not share our lived experience. We must invest in, providing sanctuary and care for our community. Similarly, the , which I founded last year, can help people find therapists they can relate to: in May, our Mental Health Fund will offer crucial financial support to offset the cost of treatment.
While some would argue that it is not necessary for a therapist to have the same lived experience as their clients, most people agree it is easier to confide in someone who’s been there. Fortunately for queer and trans people of color, there are literally thousands of therapists who have. It’s simply a matter of coming together.
Erica Woodland, is the Founder of the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has done community-based work for more than 15 years. She is a Ford Public Voices Fellow of .