LGBT+ Counselling & Psychotherapy
Written by Christine O’ Hea
“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right” ― Neil Gaiman.
It is probably best to begin by explaining the common abbreviation L.G.B.T  which represents the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and plus communities. The plus (+) simply refers to the inclusivity of all identities as they continue to evolve. Sexual Orientation can vary along a scale of who you are attracted to, someone of the same sex (homosexuality) to someone of the opposite sex (heterosexuality) or both (bisexuality). Sexual orientation is more than just a physical attraction to another person, it’s also about those feelings of intimacy that are shared between two people. We all have the need to feel love and to develop a connection with others, our orientation can be explained by who meets those needs for you. Gender identity describes what gender you feel you innately are as a person, regardless of the gender you were assigned at birth. “Gender identity is the person’s feeling of being male, female, both, a mixture, or neither, which is shown to other people through gender expression” (www.belongto.org). It is separate and independent from sexual orientation.
Equality and respect to diversity are steadily improving in Ireland but prejudice still remains in many areas in relation to openly discussing our mental health. Battling with an inner dialogue about your sexual orientation/identity along with the implications of anxiety can become incredibly overwhelming and isolating. Studies suggest that LGBT+ individuals are at higher risk for depression, anxiety and addiction. This is predominantly due to the discrimination faced from society, family members, friends and even ourselves, ranging from degradation to self-loathing for feeling different or ‘other’.
The marriage equality referendum and its outcome had a positive impact generating a feeling of inclusivity and opening up a new discussion from the closet. For some however this momentum has since dissipated and progress has slowed. Many will continue to find it difficult to be entirely open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Research has found that 56% of all young people agree that homophobic bullying has not stopped since the referendum (www.belongto.org). Cyber bullying and ‘trolling’ are explicit examples of this and are more prevalent than ever. Homophobic and transphobic commentary are commonplace online and avoiding the impact of this prejudice is not easy. However, utilising tools such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and Mindfulness promote self-care. If we go to the gym and eat well we feel physically healthier, the same can be said for our mental health and strengthening our core mind.
Everyone’s discovery of their sexual orientation is different, it is completely normal to experience feelings of real worry and confusion. Often the most angst and pressure is that which we place on ourselves. It is so important to open up to a loved one, confidante or counsellor to lessen that pressure. The first step is being able to “come out” to yourself, embracing this and being comfortable with who you are takes time for most of us.
You are not alone, there are a millions of people that make up the LGBT+ community and even more who call themselves advocates. Finding the strength to speak with someone is the hardest and most important step if you are feeling that anxiety is overwhelming. If we work on those negative self-thoughts, it will impact your behaviour and in turn lead to a healthier and happier mind.
Integrative counselling can help to dismantle the power of negative thinking and the impact that prejudice has on us. There will always be someone who disagrees with who you are but realigning your perspective on what is truly important can change your self-worth.
“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Christine O’ Hea
Integrative Psychotherapist at Dublin City Counselling
 Please note I use LGBT+ in this article for logistical reasons, I very much include those who would prefer not to acquire any labels for themselves and those who are simply curious about exploring areas of their orientation/identity.