The Benefits of LGBT Affirmative Therapy
LGBT affirmative therapy may have been something that you’ve heard of. But what exactly does this mean? Here, Phillip McCulley talks about his perspectives on LGBT therapy, and how this can help. Phillip also discusses how affirming therapy can offer support.
Hi, I’m Philip McCulley I am a LGBT affirmative therapist, as well as heterosexual affirmative therapist. I love working with people. And I know that to do this kind of a job, you kind of need to. Selfishly, I get a lot out of it to be honest. Because I don’t think that I have all the answers, but I really find joy in helping people in unlocking their innermost selves. Like, “what true self will work for you in a healthy way?”
The thing I like about therapy is that it is a time for you to really feel heard. And I feel like in society, with the texting, sound bites, and the quick, quick news stories, and the media, and then the politics, and the whatever. “Who hears me?” We write in blogs. You do put a lot of information out there, but there’s so much information coming at us… Are we hearing those around us? Are they hearing us? Therapy allows a chance for me [you]. [It’s] my time. “Who am I? What do I want… where do I want to go with things?.. I’m having a struggle and I really haven’t thought it through.” And “as opposed to acting impulsively, maybe I’ll actually process it with a therapist and figure out, hey this could work. But, I need to change my thinking on some things.
I believe we have some faulty thinking in life. And it can change the course of your life when you reality test some of the faulty thinking and realize that “hey, I’m okay… I’m enough as a person… I know that I have a voice that’s worth hearing, and I plan to live that way.
I also think that facing reality is extremely important in therapy. And that means, “you’re gay kid” or “you’re lesbian,” or “you’re trans” or “you’re bisexual”… Or “you’re straight” or whatever. But I do believe that to feel mentally healthy and have a sense of self and well-being, part of that evolution is facing reality. And this is “who I am?” This is “what do I feel?” This is “what do I know about me?” This [facing reality] is, “what makes me happy?… where do I find my joy?”
I believe that that’s possible, as we transfer from childhood compartmentalization, to adult life. And this is kind of the goal, for all of us really. You look at the big picture of life, finding the true you, and making it work in the world.
Although there have always been LGBT folk out there in the world, you can look back at the rich histories. I have many volumes of history books… This one’s a more recent book. It’s Out of the Past. In the past decade, [LGBT rights has come a long way]. But there’s also been many times of oppression too. And I feel like that affects us all. In some way it affects straight people, because the dogma of society can cause them to feel like they can’t be accepting. Particularly in religious circles. It affects gay people, lesbian people, trans people, bisexual people, when they feel judged. Where they feel like they must hide who they are and where they feel like they do not have support when they need it. And this, we need to change. I feel very passionately about this. Particularly in states like Texas, which is an amazing place. [But] where many are taught–not even the word hate, but just completely not to allow for LGBT folks to flourish. We’re not taught about it in schools in general. Gay sex is not really talked about in sexual education classes. So you always feel like an “other” growing up as a young LGBT youth. You’re not socialized in general–like typical people start dating at you know whatever age. And you’re going to the dances together. And sure there’s the out, gay, proud kid out there… who is great and I’m so pleased that that is happening more and more, but for all those great kids out there, there’s many, many more who are afraid to come out. Who have been traumatized by the thought of coming out to their family, to friends. Or [those] who have been bullied.
So this requires a lot of hiding, for some. Where they are almost lying to others and themselves about who they are, to fit in. Which is very normal for adolescence to try to fit in. If this is carried onto adult life, however, this
can cause many stunted relationships moving forward. Because the habit of compartmentalizing becomes really easy to do. I feel like I’ve seen that evidenced in sexual addictions, substance abuse, and just an inability to connect on an emotional level that’s beyond sex. And I feel like that’s a shame because many many people have such love to give, and they need to be able to express it. But they’ve learned to hide. That’s almost like hiding your talents under some sense of shame.
Know that when you see an LGBT person, not everyone’s the same, but in general they have had to face some sort of societal discord, where society is setup as a heterosexual world, in general. And they [LGBT people] evolve in different ways. Everyone is an individual, but there’s been some sort of system they have to come against and overcome. And that can make people stronger if they allow it to.
Processing these emotions can make people stronger. so know that if you have a gay friend or a lesbian friend or trans friend, or bisexual friend, that seems to be struggling. Or it’s you who is struggling, or feeling like you’re not fitting in, I believe therapy can be an approach to making your life fit better with the world around you.
But know that you’re not alone. And if you need to talk, I’m here for you.
Thank you for listening, and I hope to talk to you soon. Take care.