On Friday 17th October, the members of the Taunton Association for Psychotherapy (TAP) welcomed Dr Damian McCann, an analytical Psychotherapist from St Albans, to speak about the complex subject of responding to the needs of lesbians, gay men, bisexual (LGB), trans-sexual, and inter-sex clients in the counselling room.
Dr McCann began with a brief history of how anyone who was not heterosexual was considered in need of a ‘cure’ until relatively recently. Surgery was also used from time to time “to remove the offending part of the brain”. Aversion therapy was thought to be the way forward to “put someone right”. We were shocked to discover that even as recently as 2009 a number of UK therapists would have referred someone for “reparative” therapy.
The talk was a sensitive consideration of how to listen to such a client who might be struggling with their sexual identity. The attitudes, knowledge, and practice of a counsellor or psychotherapist were shown to be more important than their own sexual orientation. Clients from this group may already be coming to us out of a hostile environment. By simply listening, we can provide an environment of safety within which someone might explore whatever issue they have brought. Many LGB clients often don’t talk to a therapist about their sexual orientation because of the fear of misunderstanding. What Dr McCann described as ‘heterosexual privilege’ has limited, shaped, and invalidated the experience of LGB and transgender people.
Gender identity brings with it a set of 3 complicated issues: Chromosomal – where the sex of an individual is been determined by physiology; Gender Identity – relating to how the individual Feels; and Gender Role – determined by how a gender is played out in life. A counsellor must look closely at their own thoughts and questions about the client in the room and determine how much we judge someone according to preconceived stereotypical notions.
Intersex – where an individual is born with a unique set of chromosomes producing a diversity of sexual development- is a condition can challenge all of our assumptions, producing an anatomy that is not standard male or female.
It was clear by the end of the talk that there is an enormous amount to be learned from thinking about this group of individuals when working with them in the counselling room. BACP’s Ethical Framework describes the following: BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual. That sounds like a fundamental human right.
The next meeting is on Friday 14th November, when Suzie Grogan will talk about Shell Shocked Britain, the Great War`s legacy for Britain`s mental health. The Talk starts at 7.45 pm in Taunton United Reformed Church, Paul Street. All welcome.