A More Supportive Therapy Option For The LGBTQ Community

Mental illness and suicide are massive problems in Nevada, especially for LGBTQ people. 

LGB adults are more than twice as likely to have a mental health condition. Teenagers are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens. And nearly half of the transgender community say they’ve at least contemplated ending their lives.

Making matters worse: LGBTQ people are less likely to seek out mental healthcare due to the stigma of their sexuality and gender identity, among other reasons. 

As a result, the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada has begun Affirmations, a program for LGBTQ community members and their allies. It opened at the Gay and Lesbian Center last month. 

It addresses mental health from a compassionate perspective, by affirming and supporting those who won’t or can’t get traditional behavioral therapy. 

Support comes from

Patrick Bozarth, the executive director at the Community Counseling Center, told KNPR's State of Nevada that members of the LGBTQ community face a lot of stressors that heterosexual people don't face.
"So many of them stem from a society that often promotes homophobia and discrimination against them, which makes just their daily lives so difficult sometimes because they lack the essential support that they need to be who they are."
Bozarth said people in the LGBTQ community don't seek out mental health services for a lot of different reasons. One is that the mental health field has not had a history of being supportive. It wasn't until the early '70s that same-sex attraction was declassified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.
In addition, there are still therapists and counselors who believe in and use conversion therapy, which Bozarth said uses horrific methods to attempt to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Plus, he said there are not a lot of mental health professionals that are culturally competent when it comes to the LGBTQ community.
"There are those who are just not affirmative whatsoever, not supportive, but also those who might believe that they are, who make a lot of assumptions of what it means to be LGBTQ-identified," he said.
He said even people who think they're being affirming can make the mistake of seeing all people in the community as the same, with the same experiences and the same issues. 
"It is so important coming from an LGBTQ-affirming perspective to really meet the client where they're at, to value the client's experience, to really listen to them and work with the client toward goals that are going to help benefit them, and get them to the right place that they need to be in," he said.
Bozarth said besides mental health treatment, Affirmations will be comprehensive and include treatment and prevention for substance abuse, and HIV support services.
One of the barriers to getting mental health treatment is cost. Aaronell Matta, the deputy director for the Community Counseling Center, said that will not be an issue for the programs' clients. Affirmations (and CCC) accepts state Medicaid, and has an income-based, sliding-scale payment alternative and limited grant funding. 
"One of our biggest priorities as Community Counseling Center in general, and for this program, is to really do whatever we can to meet the clients where they're at to identify their financial situation, and figure out the best way that we can work with them to make this affordable," she said. 
Matta said this kind of service has been severely lacking in Southern Nevada, and unlike some other mental health services, there is no waitlist. Those looking for help will be assigned a counselor right away.

Patrick Bozarth, Executive Director, Community Counseling Center; Aaronell Matta, Deputy Director, Community Counseling Center

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