Mental health and the field of psychology, though is about helping those in need without judgement, providing complete understanding free from bias, has had its share of mistakes and issues. For a long while, homosexuality was classified as being a mental health disorder and this led to severe mistreatment using methods, which is now considered torture, in the name of treating their ‘disorder’. One such method was conversion therapy. Aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, conversion therapy employed unethical and harmful procedures and methods. Unfortunately, conversion therapy is still completely legal in many countries, which is extremely concerning.
In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM III, a manual with classifications of mental health disorders. The idea ‘gay affirmative therapy’ was brought about by Alan K Malyon in the year 1982. The aim was to compensate for all the damage done by deeming homosexuality and queerness as a mental health disorder, and rid the symptoms including toxic shame, anxiety, depression and other experiences by many LGBTQ+ people, and to eradicate stigma and discrimination that people experience as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Queer-affirmative therapy can be defined as “an approach to therapy that embraces a positive view of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) identities and relationships and addresses the negative influences that homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism have on the lives of LGBTQ clients,” (NDSU). Queer-affirmative therapy was developed to rectify the discriminatory practices which previously existed. Queer affirmative therapy is not a separate orientation or type of therapy, rather it involves the therapists being more aware of their own beliefs, attitudes and views that potentially originates from an heteronormative conditioning and identifying how this could affect their client.
What is the need for queer affirmative therapy?
Queer people go through a wide variety of challenges due to their gender identity and sexual orientations. Not only do they face social stigma, and discrimination in various facets of society, they experience violence and ostracization. For years they were considered abnormal and thus shunned and mistreated for simply being who they are. They were made to feel inferior and ill. Even now, when the world is being more aware, they still go through many extreme experiences. The negative experiences that these individuals experience can be direct forms of aggression to subtler forms of violence including derogatory terms enclosed in the form of jokes and portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in stereotypical ways in movies and media that only increase the prejudice against them.
What can queer affirmative therapy do?
Studies have found that individuals from the LGBTQ+ community who underwent queer affirmative therapy was able to feel safer and be comfortable in conversing with their therapists. Individuals receiving queer affirmative therapy was able to feel more comfortable with their own self and their body, thus developing a strong sense of identity. It can provide the necessary space for individuals to heal safely and find themselves without having to fear judgements or any form of negative experiences.
How to know if your therapist is Queer-Affirmative?
You can simply ask your therapist if they are queer affirmative, and try to understand their process and methods of providing therapy. You can also check if they have the adequate certification to practice queer affirmative therapy. Getting in touch with LGBTQ+ community can also help in identifying a good match therapist.
In a world where access to mental health is yet to be adequate and there still exists considerable stigma regarding seeking help for mental health concerns, being someone with a gender identity or a sexual orientation that is considered to be out of the ‘norm’ is extremely distressing and poses a unique set of challenges. This makes it even more important to provide judgement free safe spaces for individuals, and train therapists and other mental health professionals on how to provide the best care for their clients.
Despite the recent changes and developments, many people still remain oblivious to the existence of various sexual orientations and gender identities existing. This becomes concerning in the case of therapists and mental health professionals.
Affirmative models of therapy have come a long way in the past few decades, and still have quite a long way to go. The most important task is to find a therapist who provides a safe space and helps the client feel comfortable. If you or anyone you know is struggling with their sexuality, sexual orientation, preferences and gender dysphoria please seek therapy with Kaizen Wellbeing, we have a team of queer-affirmative therapists in Dubai ready to provide you a safe and comfortable space as you figure yourself out and to be with you every step of the way through your therapy journey.
Kaizen Wellbeing is an online therapy platform in Dubai, UAE that caters to South Asian community. There is a dearth of good therapy establishments that accommodate the mental health needs of the brown community. We aim to bridge that gap by providing you quality and affordable care by qualified and warm therapists. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or +971 50 961 8796 and book your first session towards understanding yourself and other’s better.
If you have any queries please put them down in the comments section and we will try our best to answer them and help you out.