Are there clearly identifiable ways that treatment of emotional/psychological problems or relationship problems are different for the gay and lesbian population as compared to the treatment of such problems in the heterosexual population? What about transgender issues?
The basic principles of effective psychological help are the same, but there can be significant differences. The importance of these differences varies according to the life experience and personality factors of the individual.
Before addressing the potential differences, it should be understood that because of the complexity, uniqueness and variability of human personality, it is always difficult to make general statements about any identified “group” of people.
A same gender preference group (gay or lesbian) is not a homogenous population any more than heterosexuals constitute a homogenous group. My own treatment or counseling approach is tailored to the individual problems or needs of my patients in either case. (For more information about this see About Marvin S. Beitner, Ph.D.)
It is always critically important for a therapist to be able to identify the relevant and essential conflicts and problem areas in order to establish an effective treatment plan.
Sometimes the treatment of emotional problems, such as anxiety or panic attacks or the resolution of relationship problems does not involve significant sexual preference issues at all.
Important elements that are common to all populations include issues of intimacy, fear of rejection, need for love and acceptance, effective communication, empathy, methods of conflict resolution, ability to express feelings and problems dealing with frustration, anger, resentment and jealousy.
Unique elements that sometimes play an important role in psychological and relationship issues in the gay and lesbian population include pressure or rejection by parents or other relatives, specific types of childhood trauma, cultural stereotyping, social disapproval, pressures to conceal sexual orientation and workplace harassment or discrimination. Growing up in a nurturing and accepting family atmosphere or living in a community, school or work environment that is relatively accepting of the gay and lesbian life style can minimize the significance of the differences in the treatment or counseling approach.
Gender preference issues present certain basic differences in personal psychological development and in the establishment of rewarding personal relationships. With rare exceptions, the first primary emotional and psychological attachment for every child is to a mother figure. For the heterosexual male child, this attachment serves as the model for his later sexual attachment to a female. On the other hand, for the heterosexual female, there is shift from the attachment to a female to an attachment to a male. The female’s early primary attachment to the mother is generally reflected in the greater intimacy women have in relationships with other women, such as their tendency to talk about personal issues and to seek emotional support from other women. These are characteristics that men sometimes tend to lack in their relationships with other men because of the difference in primary attachment in infancy and early childhood. It is also reflected in the higher level of hostility toward same gender choice males as compared to females.
For the gay man, there is a shift from the early attachment to the mother to an attachment to another male as an adult partner. For the lesbian, the early attachment to a female is maintained in her choice of adult partner. These differences in the paths of psychological development represent significant differences between heterosexual and same gender partners. These differences may or may not be relevant to the problems that are encountered in adulthood. Part of the job of the therapist is to identify and evaluate accurately the relevant issues and to address those issues effectively.
Factors affecting effective psychotherapeutic treatment or counseling always involves certain qualifications of the therapist. These include quality of education and training, experience with relevant patient populations, personal maturity, familiarity with cultural or sub cultural issues, ability to establish rapport, and personal comfort with the issues and the patient.
Here is a link to an article providing an interesting discussion of love between like gender partners. Love is not Sex: Why Romantic Love is not limited by Gender.
How can you decide who is the right professional person to help you with these kind of issues? You may get information about me at Marvin S. Beitner, Ph.D. You may get information about how to evaluate the credentials of any psychologist at Check Qualifications.