August 30, 2016

Why Are Gay Men Avoidant of Therapy

There are many reasons why gay men may enter into therapy: coming out, internalized homophobia, substance abuse, health concerns, lack of support from family, feelings of isolation, and not feeling accepted within their own community. ( But many men have experiences that have dissuaded them from therapy. There are men who have had therapists that have either been openly homophobic, heterosexist, or even attempt conversion therapy to “make them straight.” Some men report that they have also gotten the message in therapy that once they have come out, they no longer need therapy, as if this makes other problems magically disappear—it also gives the message that coming out is a one-time deal, when in reality many men spend a good portion of their lives coming out to people in different areas of their lives, or find the need to remain closeted in specific situations.
Why Are Gay Men Avoidant of TherapyI talked to several gay men about what they felt kept most men away from therapy, and what they found to be helpful. Mark, 44, said: “I can’t speak for everyone, but counselors usually give up on this guy, frustrated at being unable to crack the code. I usually give up right along with them. Of course, I’m only half joking. At my age, I’ve seen my share of therapists and it does seem that most have made drastic improvements in dealing with gay patients since I was eighteen. The worst was a counselor who told me, a scared kid, to just come out to his parents and move back into their religious household.” James, 50, said: “I’m all for counseling, be it individual or couples. The thing is, I’m still always anxious about or resistant to resuming sessions after a break, or finding a new clinician.” EMDR is helpful for clients that feel like their issues are “resistant” to therapy or “impossible” to treat, as they don’t have to talk in depth about their concerns, re-hashing the same things they have told multiple therapists over the years, and can still do deep work therapeutically, as EMDR taps into parts of the brain that regular talk therapy does not.
James, also noted another reason for not going to counseling: “Even though almost every practitioner I’ve looked up in directories lists ‘LGBT issues’ as a qualification, I can’t help but ALWAYS wonder if I’ll feel comfortable with a clinician, or if they’ve had maybe two gay clients in five years and don’t really have a deeper understanding of unique LGBT issues.” Culturally competent counseling is so important, and this points to the importance of therapists being as transparent as possible with clients as to whether or not they have experience with or are part of this community. A therapist should always be honest with their clients about their level of expertise and experience.
Two men stated the importance of working with a therapist who specializes in certain areas, such as trauma work. Andy, 25, further stated,  “But I also get uncomfortable when therapists act superior, or like they are ‘the expert.’ It’s intimidating.”
Therapists at Vancouver EMDR Therapy have extensive experience working with trauma, and training in multiple modes of treatment, specializing in EMDR. We know that coming to therapy can feel vulnerable, and also that clients have the inner resources to find what works best for them. EMDR helps put the client in charge of their own healing, and helps strengthen inner resources so the client can be “the expert” on their own therapeutic process. Call Angi Smith, LMHC today at 503-314-9337 to schedule your appointment.