Dear Therapists: It’s Our Responsibility to Provide Affirming, Competent Care to LGBTQ People

By Karalyn Violeta, LMSW

In October of 2017, my article, ‘Integration of desire, sexual orientation, and female embodiment of a transgender woman previously diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: A case report,’ was published in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health.  This case study was based upon my work with a long-term client over the course of more than two years, who also participated in the review and contributed content for the paper. It was initially presented at the Transgender Mental Health Symposium held by the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy in New York City in November, 2016, and then further developed for publication with my co-author, S.J. Langer. The paper was also presented at the annual Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference in September, 2017. 

As I stated in this paper, I think it is our responsibility as therapists to educate and familiarize ourselves with LGBTQ-affirming language, and to be aware of the culture, media, and health-related concerns of the communities and individuals we serve. We should be interested in our clients’ specific experiences as individuals, but not rely upon them to educate us on terminology, trans health care needs, etc. It’s very important for therapists (especially cisgender and/or straight therapists) to have knowledge about gender identity and sexual orientation, and how these issues may impact and intersect with other aspects of people’s lives, relationships, and identities. 

Both my Institute training and professional career as a psychotherapist have been focused on work with LGBTQ individuals and couples, with a particular focus on trans, non-binary, and queer-identified clients. As a member of the LGBTQ community in NYC, I know firsthand the importance of competent, affirming practice - whether it be in a doctor or therapist’s office, or anywhere services are provided. There is a particularly great need for psychotherapists to provide affirming care for trans and non-binary people; as a faculty member teaching in a social work graduate program, I incorporate basic education about trans issues and more advanced aspects of clinical practice with trans, non-binary, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer clients into our classroom learning. 

It’s been my great pleasure to work with Cobb Psychotherapy, which has always fostered a caring, affirming environment for both my clients and for myself as a queer-identified therapist. I’m thrilled to be a member of the Cobb team and to bring my specialized skills and experience to the practice!

Link to a free copy of Karalyn’s recent article: 

Karalyn Violeta is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.