Polaris Counseling & EMDR

Bryce Carithers, MA, NCC

LGBT Counseling

LGBT issues vary as much as the individuals within the community, and counseling is a way to find strength, overcome obstacles and actualize potential for all.  

  • How can I feel happier about my life and myself? 
  • I’m questioning my sexuality and/or gender identity, what does this mean and what should I do about it? 
  • I want to be open with friends and family …can “coming out counseling” help me?
  • How can I change unwanted patterns that keep showing up in my relationships/behaviors?
  • How can I cope better with experiences of discrimination?  
The LGBTQIA population is a diverse and resilient group of individuals. This resilience often results from finding ways to overcome unique challenges and situations, yet someone may still find themself being overwhelmed by repeated challenges and the thoughts and feelings that result from these. Questioning or realizing one’s own gender identity and sexuality can be confusing and scary. Deciding and acting on the decision to come out to family and friends can be even more frightening. Identifying as “different” when it comes to gender or sexuality can be met with negative reactions including stress in families and friendships. LGBT parents face a unique set of challenges when it comes to raising their children, and LGBT discrimination is an unfortunate reality for far too many.   
While these are just a few examples of struggles within the community, the effects of these and other difficulties may progress from uncertainty and unease to depression and anxiety. Feeling stuck in unwanted relationship or behavioral cycles, or questioning one’s own worth or purpose for living can eventually become a constant undertone of worry, fear, unhappiness, or lack of motivation. These habits can significantly interfere with one’s serenity, relationships with others, and ability to lead a meaningful and satisfying life. LGBT counseling can be a place to find support and validation, overcome difficult past experiences, and develop the skills necessary for building a life that is characterized by meaning, growth and confidence.   
LGBTQIA people are at a higher risk for mental health concerns due to unique challenges

Because the LGBTQIA community includes individuals from all backgrounds and ethnicities, it is not uncommon for the effects of compounding parts of identity to feel overwhelming, especially when this includes more than one minority identity. Cultural norms and societal expectations can weigh heavily on anyone who doesn’t fit what’s considered “normal” in some way, and people who are non-conforming in their gender or sexuality are even likelier to experience economic disadvantage, stigmatization, and discrimination, all of which increase the risk of physical and sexual assault. LGBT youth are also at a higher risk for problems such as experiencing bullying, physical assault, homelessness, and suicidal thoughts than their heterosexual peers.  
The unfortunate reality is that, for a variety of reasons, members of the LGBTQIA community are often likelier to have mental health concerns. While living with an increased risk presents a unique set of challenges, LGBT counseling can help shape these challenges into opportunities to form community and connection, find support from like-minded people, and develop skills for resiliency and growth.
LGBT Counseling is a way to gain insight, hope, and skills for overcoming struggles and walking your desired path in life
As your counselor, my goal is to understand your life, problems, strengths and goals through the lens that you wear as you walk through the world. I am mindful of our differences in identity, and want to minimize the effect these may have on my understanding of you and your needs. Therefore, I strive to make the therapy room a comfortable and safe place for open discussions.  When we first meet, you will help me get an idea of your current problems, how they came to be, and how your ideal future would look.  From there, we will collaborate to figure out your goals for therapy and a plan to help you reach them.  Each therapy plan is different, and yours will be based on the specific problems you bring to counseling, how severe these are, and any ideas you may have for how to address them.     
After determining your goals and steps to reach them, therapy usually includes a blend of skill development, exploring current and past experiences, and assigning “homework” to practice between sessions. The skills you choose to develop will help you reduce your most distressing current problems, while moving towards mastering the skills needed to achieve future goals. For example, LGBT parents may benefit from improving communication skills with one another regarding roles and expectations as parents, and may learn new skills around helping their children navigate having a family that is different than many of their peers.  
Clients who experience feelings of depression can learn to identify unhelpful thinking patterns that increase depressive feelings, and can use that recognition to “catch” these and shape them into more helpful thoughts and emotions.  Coming out counseling can help someone explore how to share with others in a way that feels safe and natural, while also working on increasing the amount of social support and self-confidence they have in their life. Many clients who struggle with low self-worth and self-esteem find that these feelings hold them back from building the life and relationships they most desire. By identifying and reducing what contributes to unhelpful patterns, and developing skills for meaningful interactions, people begin to make their desired changes in life and feel the positive effects of such.  
When working with clients on skill development, I generally draw rely on counseling theories such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help clients feel more capable, grounded, and in control.  In addition to learning and improving skills to address problems, many clients see the benefit in exploring their past more deeply to identify experiences that contributed to current problems and unwanted patterns in thinking, feelings, or behaving.  These experiences can then be re-worked and their emotional impact lessened, allowing the person to move forward with a more helpful perspective of the experience and positive feelings about themself (for more information on this approach, see the  EMDR page  of this website).  
Regardless of the course of therapy, problems addressed, or length of treatment, my goal is to provide a comfortable and compassionate environment where you feel supported, safe, and hopeful about your future.  Time and again I have seen clients make progress and reach their therapy goals when they invest themselves and are open to the process of change.  

Frequently Expressed Concerns and Questions

Do you work with people who identify as poly, pan, or asexual?
Yes, I work with individuals of all identities and orientations.  

I don’t really know what’s “wrong”, just that my life is not how I want it to be.  
That is okay!  Many people come to therapy knowing that they’d like things to be different without knowing the specifics of what needs to change to make this happen.  Counseling always begins by exploring what your current experience is like, and together we can identify the struggles you’re facing and how you might like to see these change.  

How can counseling help me cope with experiences of discrimination and oppression?
Being part of a minority community can come with difficulties based in systemic inequalities, cultural expectations, and interpersonal differences in beliefs and values.  Counseling can help you develop the necessary resources for coping with challenges that come with being part of the LGBTQIA community.  For some, this can be external change regarding relationships, housing, or employment, and for most it is helpful to increase internal resources such as confidence, resiliency, and belief in one’s ability to handle conflict and change.  By making sure the proper support is in place and developing helpful skills and resources, LGBTQ clients can identify the most helpful and realistic ways of coping with the difficulties in their lives and relationships.