June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, which raises the topic for our blog: What are the benefits of LGBTQ+ couples counseling?
*LGBTQ+ will be used as an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.
LGBTQ+ couples and non-LGBTQ+ couples tend to struggle with a lot of the same issues, such as lack of conflict management skills or difficulties with recognizing needs and feelings. Relationships, regardless of the type, struggles with a variety of obstacles.
In general, couples counseling offers individuals an opportunity to gain assertive communication skills, which allow them to confidently express their needs and feelings to each other. In addition, couples learn ways to improve their sense of connection, such as through gratitude and talking about core emotions (e.g. fear, sadness, etc.).
Further, couples can address issues with infidelity in counseling and begin to reestablish a connection based on mutual trust. For couples who wish to divorce, the counseling process can provide a setting to process the divorce in a healthy way.
Finally, many couples attend premarital counseling prior to marriage, so LGBTQ+ would benefit from this practice. Premarital counseling serves to improve the likelihood of a successful marriage and aims to address issues of communication, intimacy, blended families, etc.
There are specific issues that the LGBTQ+ community tends to face, such as the coming out process, internalized homophobia, depression, anxiety, coping with intimacy issues pertaining to adverse experiences (such as a lack of approval in one’s family or prejudice in public), etc. In couples therapy, the couples have a safe space to explore those issues.
For example, many individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ struggle with internalized homophobia as a result of perceptions of societal disapproval. Internalized homophobia shows itself as an inability to come out, a lack of openness (even in safe communities and settings), and self-hatred. These behaviors tend to lead to feelings of shame, depression, and anxiety.
In couples counseling, the partners can learn to navigate the coming out process individually as well as to provide support for each other. At times, one partner may be more comfortable being out than the other, and counseling can help to bridge the gap between the two partners.
Additionally, some LGBTQ+ couples struggle to address gender roles and stereotypes within the relationship. Couples counseling will explore what roles the individuals expect to fill themselves. Counselors focus on the impact of societal stereotypes on the dynamic of the LGBTQ+ couple’s relationship.
Many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community experience social isolation from family, friends, and peers as a result of their identities. Therefore, these individuals struggle with various mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression; anxiety and depression tend to onset and worsen as a result of social isolation. Counseling helps the couple identify people within their support system.
In conclusion, the purpose of this blog was to provide deeper insight into the importance of couples counseling for LGBTQ+ couples. As previously stated, individuals who are LGBTQ+ struggles with a lot of the same things as their straight counterparts, and therefore, LGBTQ+ couples share a common humanity with non-LGBTQ+ couples.