Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have unique life issues related to their gender identification. Many still, even in our modern society, face open hostility or discrimination on a daily basis. Many who identify as LGBT encounter roadblocks in their careers, strife in their family relationships, and open contempt in their communities. The constant scrutiny only adds emotional pain to an already difficult road to hoe.
It comes as no surprise that the rates of drug and alcohol addiction are more prevalent in the LGBT population. According to data collected by the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Substances, adults who identify as bisexual or gay were more than twice as likely as straight adults to use illicit drugs, while those who identify as lesbian are twice as likely as straight women to have an alcohol use disorder.
Dual diagnosis, or the existence of co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, is also more common among the LGBT population. Higher rates of mental distress are reported among the community, which may result in the abuse of substances as a way to self-medicate the effects of emotional suffering.
There are, thankfully, LGBT friendly treatment centers that provide specialized programs that address the particular needs of this population. When in need of help for addiction recovery, a program designed for individuals with an alternative sexual orientation may feel more welcoming and supportive. A gay-friendly rehab program will likely be more effective overall, due to the increased level of acceptance and support that is offered. In turn, clients will be more engaged in their recovery efforts.
Issues That May Contribute to Addiction in LBGT Individuals
Although the stigma associated with alternative lifestyles has greatly diminished, discrimination does still exist. The LGBT community often comes up against those who express blatant prejudice and even contempt for them and their chosen sexual identity, creating special social challenges that the LGBT community must grapple with on a daily basis.
In addition to cultural or societal issues that afflict members of the LGBT community, there are some deeply personal issues that not only complicate their daily life but also cause emotional strife. This emotional turmoil is sometimes a factor in developing a substance use disorder.
Sources of emotional pain that LGBT individuals struggle with include:
- Gender dysphoria. Although born of a particular biological gender, individuals who struggle with gender dysphoria do not identifying with that biological gender assignment, and suffer due to this disconnect. Gender nonconformity, referred to as transgender, can cause significant mental distress as well as impairment in daily functioning. The internal struggle may lead to the individual to adapt through cross-dressing, social transitioning, or through a medical sex change process.
- Bullying. Another source of emotional suffering is bullying or ridicule in the workplace or at school because of sexual orientation. Harassment or verbal assault can lead to depression, anxiety, declining work or academic performance, health conditions, and suicidal ideation. Sadly, bullying, physical assault, and harassment are extremely common for LGBT individuals. LGTB youth in particular are at a significantly higher risk of suicidal ideation as a result of enduring chronic bullying.
- Coming out. In many cases, an individual may have attempted to conform to family or societal expectations and hidden their gender identity for a period of some time. The difficulties associated with ‘coming out of the closet,’ the important step of disclosing one’s authentic sexual orientation to loved ones, can be a source of great distress. The coming out process is an ongoing one, usually the result of multiple situations that lead to revealing the truth to loved ones. Some may face rejection by coworkers, friends, or family members as a result of coming out. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are potential consequences that may accompany the coming out process.
- Social rejection. Discrimination against LBGT individuals still exists. Being rejected by others due to one’s sexuality can result in feelings of shame, guilt, and loneliness. Social rejection can lead to unhealthy isolating behaviors, substance abuse, eating disorders, depleted wellness, and depression. Being concerned about one’s personal safety is another valid issue for LGBT individuals, as homophobia can result in violence against the gay or transgender individual. Establishing community ties and safe spaces within the LGBT community serves as a protective factor.
Benefits of an LGBT Friendly Treatment Center
Finding a supportive rehabilitative setting that is not biased or judgmental is important to anyone who seeks treatment for a substance use disorder. It is even more important to those who identity as LGBT who face bias and discrimination on a daily basis. For rehab to be effective for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, it must be accepting and free from hurtful prejudice that only becomes triggering, working against the purpose of going to rehab in the first place.
A treatment program that is LGBT friendly will provide a compassionate environment where the clinical staff is trained in the specific issues this population faces in daily life. They will also be familiar with managing the hormonal treatment regimens some individuals may be prescribed. Therapists will be familiar with providing guidance for specific challenges, such as how to proceed with coming out to family members, or how to manage responses to open prejudice that is experienced.
What to Expect in Addiction Treatment
The actual treatment program for LGBT individuals will be virtually the same as in the heterosexual rehab programs. Industry standards, best practices, and evidence-based approaches guide all quality rehab programs, regardless of the unique features of the clients. Treatment programs should be structured, supportive, and safe. Treatment will include the following elements:
- Intake process. The initial intake process involves a detailed interview and other assessment techniques that helps the clinician to ascertain a specific diagnosis. This will also include a psychological assessment to identify if there is a co-occurring mental health disorder. A physical exam is usually included in this initial step. From this data the clinical staff can design an individualized treatment protocol and set recovery goals.
- Medical detox. Many individuals entering rehab will first have to complete the medical detox process. This involves several days during which the body is eliminating the remaining toxins or chemicals of the substance. During detox the client will be closely monitored, allowing for the detox team to intervene with medications and other measures that help reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
- Addiction treatment. The treatment portion of rehab focuses on guiding the client toward making fundamental changes in their behavior patterns. Clients will participate in a variety of therapeutic activities, including:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Classes that teach recovery skills
- 12-step meetings
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Holistic therapies
- Recreational therapy
- Nutritional counseling
- Aftercare. Once the treatment program has been successfully completed, the client will begin accessing aftercare services. This is an important phase of recovery that helps to solidify the techniques learned in rehab during the early months following treatment. Aftercare measures include:
- Outpatient therapy
- Participation in a recovery community
- Sober living
Dual Diagnosis for LGBT Individuals
LGBT often have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. Therapists who are trained and experienced in effectively treating the issues unique to LGBT individuals are essential in a dual diagnosis rehab program. This is important because a therapist who themselves is prejudiced, or even just ignorant of the challenges faced by LGBT individuals, will not be effective in their efforts to counsel.
While many of the life events and issues that people seek help for are universal, such as relationship problems, addiction issues, family discord, or mood disorders, there are also unique issues specific to the LGBT community. The dual diagnosis program should have a highly trained clinical staff that is knowledgeable about these specific problems.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment at an LGBT Friendly Treatment Center
A dual diagnosis can create a more complicated clinical picture, necessitating a specialized program that includes psychiatric services. It is widely held that to achieve the best long-term recovery outcome, both disorders—the substance use disorder and the mental health disorder—must be treated together. If the rehab program is not equipped to treat a co-occurring mental health disorder the chances of achieving a sustained recovery are minimal. This is because the mental health issue may be directly connected to the substance use.
Dual diagnosis often involves medication for managing the mental health disorder. These might include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood stabilizers. Because a dual diagnosis has a psychiatrist on staff, these medications can be incorporated into the treatment plan.
Psychotherapy is a core treatment element in dual diagnosis. The type of psychotherapy approach is determined by the specific mental health disorder. Many clinicians employ the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for treating minority stress and a variety of mental health issues surrounding the LBGT lifestyle. CBT is a short-term therapy that can be adapted for many different mental health needs. Other therapies may include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing, and Interpersonal Therapy.
Ken Seeley Communities LGBT Friendly Treatment Centers Palm Springs
Ken Seeley Communities offers a welcoming and compassionate vibe to individuals who identify as LGBT. The expert clinical team is well acquainted with the unique features of addiction that affect individuals with an alternative sexual orientation, and is highly trained to help them in their recovery journey.
Ken Seeley Communities provides a fully integrative program, from intervention services to medical detox, addiction treatment, aftercare, and sober living resources. Clients experience a full spectrum of care at Ken Seeley, allowing for a seamless transition between each phase of recovery. For more details about our program, please contact our team at (877) 744-0502.