“Do No Harm” is an ethical imperative for Mental Health Therapists. Sadly, this tenet has not always been followed as practitioners work with Gay, lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender clients. Too often lack of training, insensitivity or prejudice of GLB and T people has come before respectful, effective care.
Today, I attended the Prairie Care Education Series which focused on sexual orientation and gender identity in adolescents. I sat with approximately 100 other Mental Health Providers who wanted to learn more about gender identity, sexual orientation and youth.
Janet Bystrom, LICSW founder of Reclaim, an organization which provides counseling, groups and holistic care for GLB and T youth and their families led the workshop. The workshop included empirical research as well as personal anecdotes to provide a better understanding of the stress of living in a culture which has been, and oftentimes continues to be, hostile toward GLB and T people. She spoke of how this can negatively impact mental health and the quality of one’s life in adolescence and in adulthood. She encouraged a non-pathologizing approach for clinicians, stressing the current stance by the many associations which govern mental health providers, that it is unethical to attempt to change or influence an underlying orientation. Dr. Jamie Feldman MD, PhD from the University of Minnesota’s Program in Human Sexuality spoke about how hormone treatments may be effective in reducing distress for transgender youth. This is not the path all transgender youth and their families choose, but it is an option and it is good to know there are experienced, competent, and caring medical professionals available to help in the Twin Cities. The final speaker was Dr. Julie Praus MD, a Psychiatrist who is GLB and T friendly and knowledgeable and who practices at PRISM in Minneapolis.
A large room full of mental health providers spent today trying to become better practioners and learn about the vast resources available to GLB and T youth and their families in the Twin Cities. While this can not undo harms done to Gay, Lesbian and Transgender persons by mental health practioners in the past, hopefully it is a step toward better care in the future. Counseling should be a safe place for people to bring their whole selves and receive knowledgeable and effective care; if Mental Health Providers are not able to offer this for any reason, they should refer clients to someone who can in order to “Do No Harm.”
If you are looking for a therapist in the Twin Cities area please contact Trisha Falvey, MA, LAMFT