Michele O'Mara

Children of GLBT parents

Filed By Michele O'Mara | May 08, 2007 10:57 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Living
Tags: advice column, child care, LGBT community, LGBT families, LGBT youth, mental health, therapy

"My child is having some issues, but I'm not comfortable taking her to just anyone since she has gay parents. Can you recommend someone in Indiana that specializes in child therapy and is okay with gay parents?"

The short answer is, yes, Erin Hamilton. She has a private practice, and is involved in the community through her work at Jesus MCC where she provides a support group to Children of GLBT parents and also offers a support group through her practice called the SUN group and is currently involved in bringing the a COLAGE chapter (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) to Indianapolis in June - look for her at the COLAGE booth at Pride!

The long answer is that when you are a parent and you take your child to a therapist - any therapist, it is critical to ask questions first. This is particularly so when you have a family with issues of diversity that the therapist may not necessarily support. When you leave your child in the care of anyone, it is your responsibility to know to the best of your ability whether or not their experience will affirm them or harm them. Messages that indicate your family is "bad," "wrong," or "immoral" are not affirming. If you inadvertently end up with a therapist who does not affirm your same-sex relationship, this could end up doing more harm than good to your child who is struggling to come to terms with his or her own feelings about your family.

Questions to consider asking a potential new therapist are:

1. What's your experience with same-sex families and children in these families?

2. What are your professional beliefs about homosexuality?

3. What are your personal beliefs about homosexuality (or transgenderism if that's the case)?

Contrary to popular belief, it is appropriate to ask this question. You are buying a service, from a therapist, who is a person, with beliefs, biases, and opinions. Of course we are trained to be objective, non-judgmental, and open-minded, yet as with most things in life, some are able to do this better than others. The ideal, of course, is that someone doesn't have to work to be open-minded, rather they simply are open-minded. It's your task to uncover this - before your child is asked to spend time with the therapist.

4. Explore the therapist's experience with the issue you wish to address.

Be cognizant of the actual reason your child needs therapy. Consider who the specialists in this area are... for example, Attention Deficit Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Behavioral problems, Gender confusion, etc... the goal is to get an open-minded therapist who is affirming of your family and knows how to address the specific issue your child has. No easy task, I realize - but worth the search.

As with anything, trust your gut. You should have a good feeling about your therapist, even if therapy itself makes you uncomfortable, the actual therapist him or herself, should not.

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