We Need More LGBTQ-Centered Treatment

By The Fix staff 05/08/19

Finding a treatment center that prioritizes the LQBTQ experience is essential for facilitating long-term recovery.

Smiling person at Inspire Recovery, a LGBTQ-specific treatment center.

When someone you love is in crisis, there’s a temptation to get them help as quickly as possible. That’s especially true with substance use disorders, where a person may change their mind about being receptive to treatment. However, the first option for treatment isn’t always the best, and this is especially true for people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“In order to heal addiction and mental health symptoms you need to focus on the whole person and their environment,” said Alicja Majer, the director of operations at Inspire Recovery, a treatment center in West Palm Beach, Florida that serves LGBTQ+ folks. “The environment needs to be focused on their identity, or that person doesn’t have the opportunity to heal their whole selves.”

For LGBTQ+ people, getting into a treatment center that is specific to LGBTQ+ individuals is critical to ensure long-term healing. In a moment of crisis, family members, friends and allies should recognize how important this is, and help find a treatment center specifically for this community — like Inspire Recovery.

Healing the Whole Person from the Start

Because of the rush to get someone into treatment as soon as they are willing to go, LGBTQ+ people often wind up at treatment centers that are not informed about the unique issues and traumas that gay, transgender, and non-conforming people face growing up in a cis-gender, heterosexual, binary society.

Too often, parents and other loved ones believe that if a person gets help for their substance abuse issues, than the trauma and mental health issues stemming from responses to their gender identity or sexual orientation will resolve. However, professionals at LGBTQ-specific treatment centers like Inspire Recovery believe that these issues need to be resolved first, before substance abuse can be treated.

“They see the issue as drug addiction and they think the person can just go to a rehab, but without having a peer and staff built-in support system along with an educated and informed staff providing a safe culture they won’t feel comfortable to actually drop down their walls and begin healing to start doing therapy and entering into recovery,” said Donna Weinberger, founder and CEO of Inspire Recovery.

Too often, Weinberger said, clients who have already been through a traditional treatment program come to Inspire and need to essentially restart their treatment process at a higher level. Once they are in a setting that embraces their whole identity, trust, comfort, and love allow them to begin therapy and sobriety.

“When someone does come to a place like ours they’re basically starting over, often recovering from continued trauma from the institutions that they came from,” Weinberger said.

A Proactive Approach to Finding the Right Treatment

Although friends and family might want to get their loved one into treatment as soon as possible, it’s necessary to put in the extra work to find an LGBTQ+ specific treatment center. That can make all the difference, helping reduce relapse rates and setting the person in recovery up for a lifetime of health.

“It’s the ability for them to feel comfortable so they can process whatever it might be that led them to where they are,” said Majer.

Weinberger emphasized that it is important loved ones recognize this.

“Get them to a safe space,” Weinberger said. “Up until this point in their life they’re feeling uncomfortable and using drugs and alcohol to feel more comfortable. Getting to safe space that is LGBTQ+ specific (not focused or friendly) is where they finally walk in and feel like they can breathe.”

The extra work initially will pay off in the long-run, since LGBTQ+ people who find treatment that focuses specifically on their experiences fare better in the long run.

“An addict can help an addict like no other person can. It’s the same thing. One gay male addict is going to be able to help another gay male addict; trans females are going to have that relatability, life experiences and shared experience,” Weinberger said. “They can let down their mask, talk about things, other people in the room can relate.”

Lifesaving Treatment

Ultimately, being a good ally and connecting your loved one with LGBTQ+ centered treatment can save their lives. In addition to helping them heal their substance use disorder, finding a treatment center that embraces their true identity shows that you — their ally — recognize and respect how important this part of them is.

Majer said the importance of this acceptance can’t be understated.

“Let parents hear the hard facts: When families reject and don’t affirm their kids, they have a high potential for dying,” she says. “What measures will you take to make sure your kid stays alive? It’s not rocket science to support your kid in who they are and leave your own personal bias aside.”

Taking these measures is part of being a good ally to the person you love.

“An LGBTQ+ specific place is vital for the work that needs to be done for an LGBTQ+ individual to get treatment,” Weinberger said. “Part of being a good ally means understanding why they need to get to the right facility.”

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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