When we talk about sexual orientation, we're talking about an individual's mental attraction, physical attraction, and sexual preference to members of the same-gender. This seems simple enough, but the reality is that many people struggle with not only their sexual orientation (or identity), but also the process of coming out.
Again, as simple as this process may seem, it can be exceedingly difficult. Not only do individuals run the risk of being ostracized by their family and friends (not always, but it's sadly not uncommon), they also face subtle forms of discrimination on a consistent basis. This is why we quoted Emerson above - because receiving messages to be anything but yourself in the world and having the courage to be honest about who you are is astounding and inspiring.
Additionally, coming out isn't a one-and-done process. It's a process that can take a lifetime and may not be safe in every situation or with all people. There's an inherent risk in doing so - although, ideally, counseling isn't one of those places.
Sad, But Common Experience
Being on the counselor side of the 'couch' affords us (counselors) the privilege of hearing people's stories. Loads of stories. There's beauty in this, but there's also a deep sadness. In working with people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (to name a few), it's not uncommon to hear stories of prejudice and discrimination from previous counseling and/or mental health service providers.
This is not what you will get when you come to The Counseling Hub. Our counselors specialize in lgbt+ issues and take great pride in being as inclusive and affirming as possible. Additionally, we know how to deal with the fallout from poor previous experiences.
Issues Related to Sexual Identity
- Coming Out
As discussed, this is an ongoing, somewhat lifelong process, due to the heteronormative assumptions that our society continue to make.
This is another thing that is a common struggle for individuals who identify as lgbt+. Basically, it can be difficult to accept onself in the face of being unsure if others accept you, feeling like you're abnormal, not knowing if your family will be comfortable with you, and feeling like you don't quite 'fit' with society.
- Ongoing Discrimination
While there is a growing level of acceptance for various sexual identities, there is still widespread discrimination and prejudice. These types of experiences can lead to poor mental health.
- Anxiety and Depression
Tied in with numbers one, two, and three listed above, anxiety and dpression (along with substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and self-harm) are absolutely areas of concern for sexual minority clients. These are also areas that we can address together, in the counseling session.
One Last Note
Coming to counseling can be an empowering and rewarding experience, and one that is extremely difficult to do (especially if you fall in the camp of having unhealthy and/or damaging previous counseling experiences). While we can't change the past, we can (and will) ensure that you feel safe, supported, and heard. All of which can be extremely healing and helpful in your continued growth and development.