Caring for the LGBTQIA+ community
Pride 2023 is here! While our amazing team at Vita Health is excited to support our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) patients every month of the year, June deserves some extra recognition for some very important reasons.
Pride Month occurs during the month of June each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City, a historical event often considered the catalyst of the U.S. Gay Liberation Movement. Since then, Pride celebrations occur all around the world in honor of past and present members of this community (Library of Congress, n.d.).
While millions of people around the world celebrate this month with parades, parties and more, it is also a time to recognize the unique hardships faced by the community. People who identify with a gender, sexual, or affectional minority orientation are often exposed to hate crimes, microaggressions, and minority stressors. All these hardships can result in negative health outcomes for queer-identifying folks, especially in younger age demographics.
According to Mental Health America, LGBTQIA+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal, over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth, and six times more likely experience symptoms of depression (LGBTQ+ Communities, n.d.). In this article, we’ll explore some of the reasons why that is, as well as how we (and other mental health organizations!) are working to change it.
LGBTQIA+ hate crimes
Research from UCLA shows that LGBTQIA+ people are experiencing hate crimes at an alarmingly high rate. A 2022 study showed that LGBT identifying people are 9 times more likely than heterosexual and cisgender counterparts to experience a violent hate crime. This data, analyzed from the 2017-2019 National Crime Victimization Survey, also revealed that the LGBTQIA+ people experiencing these hate crimes later suffered with negative emotional reactions, difficulty in their social lives, and general physical distress. More specifically, LGBTQIA+ hate crimes often resulted in anxiety and depression (Flores et al., 2022).
While some LGBTQIA+ people experience overt acts of hate, oftentimes this discrimination occurs in a less obvious form. Microaggressions are subtle and occasionally unintentional discriminatory behaviors and actions directed towards a minority group (Sue et al., 2007). More specifically, some examples of LGBTQIA+ microaggressions might include the assumption of a singular LGBTQIA+ experience, offensive verbiage, and misgendering (Nadal et al., 2011). Experienced once or twice, these discrete acts of hate may be tolerable. When experienced daily, microaggressions start to feel macro. One microaggression might feel like a singular fly buzzing around your head, yet the accumulation of many microaggressions over time begins to feel like a swarm. Resultantly, there are negative mental health outcomes. LGBTQIA+ micro-aggressions can lead to emotional dysregulation (e.g., feeling angry, unsafe, or frustrated) and a variety of mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, and PTSD) (Nadal et al., 2011).
LGBTQIA+ minority stress
Minority stress is the unique and often exacerbated level of stress that minority groups experience due to their marginalization in society. Minority stress theory goes so far as to support that health disparities experienced by LGBTQIA+ folks may stem from the heterosexist and cis-normative culture we live in. The result can be discrimination, harassment, decreased access to care, and negative health outcomes (Denato, 2012). For example, a gay cisgender man may experience the minority stressor of homophobia. The psychological repercussions of such experiences are well documented to be potentially traumatic.
Countless anti-LGBTQIA+ bills are currently advancing in courts of law throughout the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently tracking 491 of these bills, many of which specifically attack trans youth and their access to gender affirming care. While not all of these bills will pass, they all cause psychological and physical harm to queer people. Many respected advocacy groups, such as The Human Rights Campaign, support that access to gender affirming care improves mental health outcomes and decreases suicidality in trans youth. Now, more than ever, it is crucial for LGBTQIA+ people to have access to affirmative therapy.
The Vita Way
The clinical team at Vita is well aware of the variety and severity of stressors and discrimination that our LGBTQIA+ clients are up against. As such, we make it a priority to provide top-tier queer affirmative therapy. Here’s how:
Confidential telehealth: At Vita, we see all of our patients via telehealth (virtually). LGBTQIA+ patients and especially youth often have limited access to physically attending therapy. We are opening the door for all queer youth to come see us. Beyond that, the conversations we have in therapy are confidential, meaning that what we talk about stays between us (with respect to the confines of confidentiality).
- Research-backed therapy: All the therapists at Vita undergo ongoing training to continue providing the best services possible. For example, much of the therapy we practice is routed in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, an empirically backed modality which can be adapted to a wide range of clinical problems facing LGBTQIA+ folks (Safren & Roger, 2001).
- Respecting pronouns: As clinicians, all of us at Vita know how important it is to respect the gender identity and pronouns of our patients. To that end, we all include our own pronouns in our email signatures and work to normalize this experience by asking our patients what pronouns they would like us to use when referring to them.
- Queer competence: Having therapists with a baseline knowledge of queer identity and culture is crucial when working with and truly understanding queer patients. That is why Vita hires only the best therapists who are readily prepared to work with, respect, and understand the many aspects of queer culture, identity and relevant terminology.
- Advocacy: At Vita, we work with a lot of amazing young people. Part of our job is to advocate alongside and on-behalf-of our patients. For a queer client, this may look like helping in difficult conversations with parents or coordinating with a school guidance counselor. Whatever the case may be, we are always ready and willing to be there for our LGBTQIA+ patients!
To sum it up
To sum it up, we recognize that it isn’t always easy to exist as an LGBTQIA+ person, and finding the right therapist who will support you and your identity can be a struggle. Our promise at Vita is timely mental health support, on your terms. We are experienced professionals you can trust, ready to provide individually catered and empirically supported mental health services through safe, confidential therapy.
We can’t wait to meet with you, hear your story, and provide you the queer-affirmative support that you deserve!
Ready to make an appointment? Click here.
- The National Suicide Hotline (Call 988)
- The Crisis Text Hotline (text HOME to 7414741)
- The Trevor Project (Call, Chat, or Text via thetrevorproject.org)
- Vita Health (Call +1 (844) 866-8336 to make an appointment)
Dentato, M. P. (2012, April 1). The minority stress perspective. Psychology and AIDS Exchange
Flores, A. R., Stotzer, R. L., Meyer, I., & Langton, L. L. (2022, December 21). Hate crimes
against LGBT people: National Crime Victimization Survey, 2017-2019. UCLA School of Law - Williams Institute. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/lgbt-hate-
LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health. Mental Health America. (n.d.).
Library of Congress. (n.d.). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Queer Pride month. The
Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/
Nadal, K. L., Wong, Y., Issa, M.-A., Meterko, V., Leon, J., & Wideman, M. (2011). Sexual
orientation microaggressions: Processes and coping mechanisms for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 5(1), 21–46, DOI: 10.1080/15538605.2011.554606
Safren, S.A, Rogers T. (2001). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with gay, lesbian, and bisexual
clients. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 57(5):629-43. doi: 10.1002/jclp.1033. PMID: 11304703.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., &
Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286.
is a Licensed Associate Counselor in the state of New Jersey and Therapist at Vita Health. He earned his Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the College of New Jersey, and is a proud member of and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.