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Counseling Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered People

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  • 0:03 Sexual Orientation
  • 1:01 Stigma & Social Pressure
  • 3:12 Gender Transitions
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In many ways, counseling LGBT clients is just like counseling straight clients. But in other ways, LGBT clients face specific challenges that straight clients might not face. In this lesson, we'll look at how to counsel LGBT clients.

Sexual Orientation

Jerry is a counselor, and he's got a new job that makes him a little nervous. He's been hired to counsel couples and individuals who are not straight, and he's never really had much contact with the LGBT community. He's not sure what to expect.

LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Like straight couples, many LGBT couples argue about the same few things, like finances, sex, in-laws, and a few others.

In fact, Jerry might find that his clients are not really all that different from him at all! But there are a few things that he might encounter and should be aware of when counseling LGBT clients. Let's take a look at the stigma and social pressure on LGBT individuals, and the unique issues facing transgendered people when they go through gender transitions.

Stigma & Social Pressure

When Jerry was a kid, gays and lesbians were ostracized. They were excluded from clubs and social groups, and many people didn't come out because they feared for their safety if people found out that they were not straight.

Things have gotten better since Jerry was a kid, but there is still some stigma associated with being LGBT in some social groups. Jerry might find that some of his LGBT clients feel pressure from society, either to be straight or to conform to LGBT stereotypes.

For example, a lesbian woman might find that some people she knows tell her that she just needs to find the right man to settle down with. Others might expect her to watch sports or wear masculine clothing just because she's a lesbian.

As a result of social stigma and pressure, Jerry's LGBT clients may feel stress, anger, anxiety, and depression, even if they are otherwise happy. Jerry's lesbian client might be very successful at her job, be in a loving relationship, and otherwise be happy with her life. But the comments she faces from people about finding a man or acting more like a lesbian stereotype could cause her to feel angry and anxious.

In addition, coming out to friends and family can be stressful. Jerry may find that some of his clients don't feel comfortable telling their friends and family that they are not straight. As a result, they might feel stress, anxiety, or depression because of the disconnect between who they are and who they present to their family and friends.

In addition, some couples can experience tension in the relationship if one person is out and the other isn't. Partners may disagree about coming out, and this can put a strain on the relationship.

So what can Jerry do? The most important thing for a counselor, like Jerry, to remember when counseling LGBT clients is that they need someone to support them. He should make sure that he does not judge his clients for their sexual orientation or for their choices in coming out.

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