When the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1997, emphasizing the importance of sexual orientation in the planning and implementation of appropriate therapy, it highlighted the fact that the interests of the LGB individuals were important (Johnson & Buhrke, 2006). The resolution emphasized that LGB is not a mental disorder and therefore does not require to be treated with therapy. The resolution also included guidelines for the psychotherapists for working with the LGB population. Among the several recommendations, the resolution guides the psychotherapist on dealing with sexual assault victims and addressing discrimination among the LGB people.
Sexual assault is an important factor that affects a client’s perception of sexual orientation. The services rendered by the psychotherapist towards such assault victim are very crucial, as it has a significant bearing on the further development of sexual orientation of the individual. It is important for psychotherapists to ensure that such client’s don’t associate wrong notions from the assault to their already confused, developing sexual orientation. Same-sex abuse or molestation, of adolescents is a very potential situation giving rise to uncertainty of the victim’s sexual orientation. Adolescents with a history of victimization to same-sex sexual assaults, not only feel confused about their sexual orientation but also attribute their own same-sex feelings to those assaults. They would feel that by reversing the effects brought by the trauma, they could again become heterosexual. Such views are inappropriate and require the psychologists to have a careful analysis and understanding of all relevant information available (Schneider et al., 2002). Psychologists need to inform clients that the rate of heterosexual abuse and same-sex abuse is same.
This would help clients to focus on their own sexual orientation, without associating it with their abuse, they experienced. Psychotherapists should avoid making unsupported connection of childhood molestation and sexual orientation. When psychologists form assumptions without any logical backing, for the causes of sexual orientation; they find it difficult to answer queries of confused clients. Only a proper understanding of the development of sexual orientation can help answer client’s confusion and questions. It has been studied and concluded that childhood sexual trauma is in no way related to the development of homosexual or bisexual orientation. Clients who speculate their orientation to certain life developments need to know that heterosexual orientation development is not impaired due to trauma, poor parenting or adverse experiences in heterosexual relationships. Proper training and experience would help the psychologist to assist the client to come to terms with their sexual orientation.
Psychologists need to be conscious of their own understanding and attitude with respect to issues involving lesbian, gay and bisexual people. They should be aware of their abilities and also know their limitations. This is essential for them to make appropriate assessments and treatments or seek consultation, when necessary. The negative attitudes of the therapists like considering homosexuality and bisexuality as mental illness, would drive the therapist to conclude these to be the cause of the client’s psychological problems, although it may be irrelevant to the case. The effectiveness of the therapy is seriously affected when therapist is biased to heterosexuality, and applies heterosexual norms to LGB people (APA Online, 2008). Since there is a lot of bias and misinformation in the society on homosexuality and bisexuality, stigmatization is highly prevalent among LGB people. They are subjected to discrimination in several ways, putting them at risk for mental health problems, social stressors, substance abuse and even suicide. Psychologists need to understand the history of the client’s victimization to assess the impairment of the client’s world view on account of this. These risks are more pronounced among the LGB adolescents. Psychologists should attempt to create a safe therapeutic approach for the sexually minority youth. They need to be conscious of the issues surrounding minors and how these are made more difficult when dealing with LGB groups.
Johnson W.B & Buhrke R.A (2006). Service delivery in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” world: Ethical care of gay, lesbian, and bisexual military personnel. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Vol. 37, No. 1, 91-98
Schneider et al. (2002) Implementing the resolution on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation: A guide for the perplexed. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice Vol. 33, No. 3, 265-276
APA Online (2008) Guidelines for psychotherapy with lesbian, gay & bisexual clients. [Electronic Version] Downloaded on July 26th from http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html#4