The LGBTQ+ Community That's Healing Its Own

By The Fix staff 01/29/19

Even well-meaning providers who want to be allies often look to the LGBTQ+ person for guidance about everything from their pronouns, orientation, expression or gender identity.

Inspire Recovery Staff

People who identify as LGBTQ+ are more at risk for substance abuse than straight and cis-gendered individuals because of the trauma that many people in this population experience. Even when they get treatment for substance use disorder or trauma, LGBTQ+ folks often have to spend time educating their providers about their gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, which can take time and energy away from healing their addiction and health concerns.

Inspire Recovery, a treatment center in West Palm Beach, Florida, that offers a variety of treatment programs, aims to change that by providing a treatment center and staff that is steeped in LGBTQ+ culture in order to provide seamless, affirmative treatment for members of the community.

“A lot of times people say, ‘I want a place that affirms me because I want to be safe and don’t want to worry about constantly educating and advocating for myself,’” explained Alicja Majer, the director of operations at Inspire Recovery, who is also a therapist and educator. “They want to be able to actually process and work on what they came to treatment for, not be pathologized because of their identity.”

Even well-meaning providers who want to be allies often look to the LGBTQ+ person for guidance about everything from their pronouns, orientation, expression or gender identity. These questions and micro-aggressions that occur in groups can retraumatize LGBTQ+ individuals who just want to focus on healing.

At Inspire Recovery, many of the staff members are part of the LGBTQ+ community. There is a base level of understanding that clients benefit from. When they don’t need to take time and emotional energy explaining their gender or orientation, they can focus on their recovery, Majer said. This can cover medical issues — like ensuring that hormone treatment can continue — or social issues, like talking about building a family of choice or the hurt of being rejected by biological family.

“We know what our community needs,” Majer said. “We understand the context of our community.”

While most people who deal with substance use disorder are members of an underserved population, adding in an LGBTQ+ identify adds another layer of complexity and risk factor for issues like trauma, mental health and family disruption.

“Those things might be correlated within the addict population, and when you bring in the LGBTQ+ community experience added on top, it creates a different environment and context for treating the individual.”

All of the providers at Inspire Recovery are versed in trauma care, because clients often come to treatment with complex trauma histories, Majer said. By working with people who are knowledgeable about trauma and LGBTQ+ issues, clients are able to address all areas of their lives and heal in a holistic fashion.

In addition to getting trauma-informed care from members of their own community, clients at Inspire Recovery also get to see LGBTQ+ people who are out at work and in leadership positions, something they often haven’t experienced before.

“I think that’s what’s really powerful for a lot of our community members,” Majer said. “When they’re walking in feeling so beat down, they’re struggling with sobriety and identity, but they see other people who are part of the community as successful leaders. It gives them hope that they can be part of the community, be LGBTQ+, be out at work, and be successful.”

Many of the clients end up relocating to the South Florida area, which has a thriving and supportive LGBTQ+ community, Majer said. Inspire Recovery is working to strengthen that community by building relationships with other community providers so that clients have access to ongoing care.

“We want to break down the walls that exist in treatment, to help connect with doctors and community centers,” Majer said. “We do stuff together and introduce clients to these people so they can get comfortable with the town they live in.”

This is also important so that more providers are comfortable and knowledgeable about addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals.

“We want other people to provide affirmative care to the community because we can’t do it alone,” she said.

Inspire Recovery provides treatment for substance use disorder and mental illness for LGBTQIA+ individuals in West Palm Beach, Florida. Learn more on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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