Counselling

5 LGBT2SQ+ Insights for the Counselling Room

As counsellors, it’s important to understand the broad spectrum of gender and sexual diversity so you can better serve your clients. An LGBT2SQ+ centred approach is an interrelationship of thinking and being and doing, each shifting and being shifted by the others. This conceptual grounding is necessary before getting to practice principles, because the pull back to the dominant idea of working with people across the spectrum of gender and sexual diversity – people who may have been labelled as deviant and disordered – can be strong. It is the othering of queer ways of being that can lead LGBT2SQ+ people to seek therapeutic support in the first place.

What do you need to learn about, examine within yourself, and reflect upon in order to be genuinely invested in this work?

 

Insights and Guiding Principles to Support LGBT2SQ+ Clients

The following practice principles are generated from the wisdom of the people I’ve worked with and tested through my experiences in the field.

1. Do your own work first

What do you need to learn about, examine within yourself, and reflect upon in order to be genuinely invested in this work?

In frontline counselling and support roles, the relationship is the central vessel for engagement and change, and who we are in the relationship is the anchor. We are professionally obligated to be competent and self-aware, responsibilities that are keenly important in LGBT2SQ+ centred work.

2. Recognize the power of language

To what degree do your words reflect the thinking, being, and doing of LGBT2SQ+ centred practice?

It is hard to know when we get it right, but we certainly know when we get it wrong. Language is regularly evolving with changes in meaning and application. As a central tool of our trade, we need to be vigilant to the impact of what we say, how we say it, and, most of all, how it lands.

block_tweet] We are professionally obligated to be competent and self-aware.[/block_tweet]

3. Focus on the messaging of your workplace

Who does your office reflect and attract?

This principle applies to the concrete working practices of offices and organizations and beckons us to pay attention to how the physical environment and space shapes social relations. In your agency or in your private practice, examine the unspoken messages about who belongs there. What images are on the walls? Who and what do they prioritize? Who works at the agency or with you? Which identities do they represent and reflect? Is your office located in an area known for being queer-friendly? Might you be located in a place that is not queer-friendly? What are the implications?

As a central tool of our trade, we need to be vigilant to the impact of what we say, how we say it, and, most of all, how it lands.
4. Develop relevant programs

What services and supports can your agency create to be responsive to the needs of LGBT2SQ+ people?

Whatever our role is in the helping professions, we ultimately want to provide a valuable service. This means thinking through what is relevant and meaningful to the population(s) we work with. In order to do so, we need to both develop population-specific programs and services as well as build LGBT2SQ+ centred clinical capacity into generic programs and services. In this way, we can retain allegiance to the reality that there are unique components of the lives and experiences of LGBT2SQ+ people, which need particular attention, and there are overlaps with other identities and needs that also require consideration. This is a both-and approach that reflects the thinking of LGBT2SQ+ centred approaches. We can identify and deconstruct the binaries that lead us to think we can only ever do one of two things, not both.

We have the opportunity to influence how LGBT2SQ+ people experience services and systems of care, and we often have the power to reduce or remove barriers that marginalize and oppress this population.
5. Bring your sharpest skills

How can you activate empathy and validation, mobilize strengths and insight, and connect with and politicize individuals and communities?

The skills needed in LGBT2SQ+ centred therapeutic encounters are foundational skills for all good counselling work. It is our professional and ethical obligation to bring our best skills with everyone with whom we work. We need to:

  • Create the conditions that invite a person to tell their story; be genuine, engaged, and responsive
  • Ask questions and initiate conversations that probe at meanings of experiences, help to reveal insights, challenge interpretations taken as truth, and consider alternative perspectives
  • Deconstruct assumptions and arrangements that we may take for granted, for example, regarding what makes a “good” person or what are “worthwhile” activities, regarding how people achieve social status, and regarding how we can counter dominant values
  • Prompt analysis of social, political, and economic forces in people’s personal lives
  • Link personal circumstances with societal and systemic explanations
  • Connect people with relevant collectives, communities, and supports

Social service workers and counsellors have a critical role to play in addressing the social and political inequities that burden the health, well-being, and wholeness of people across the gender and sexuality spectrum. This work extends from micro levels to macro perspectives. It begins with the self and a focus on the words we use, grows to the level of organizational structure, and comes to rest in the clinical skills we use. We have the opportunity to influence how LGBT2SQ+ people experience services and systems of care, and we often have the power to reduce or remove barriers that marginalize and oppress this population.

Social service workers and counsellors have a critical role to play in addressing the social and political inequities that burden the health, well-being, and wholeness of people across the gender and sexuality spectrum.

The reach of heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia extends through all societal institutions and social practices, and right into our heads. It’s a combination that requires particular attention to how we think about the issues, how they impact on people’s ways of being, and how we do our work. Once we can see the constraining effects of socially constructed identity categories and their behavioural expectations, the thinking, being, and doing of LGBT2SQ+ centred practices becomes relevant across all populations.


For more information on this topic check out our free printable PDF, How to Be an Ally For additional free resources, visit our free resources page.

Author

Marion Brown

PhD, RSW Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

Marion is a co-author of CTRI’s book, Counselling in Relationships – Insights for Helping Families Develop Healthy Connections. The book is available on our website.

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