Creating Inclusivity

creating-inclusivity-2015We at Aspire strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for all marginalized populations while providing a full continuum of services, including behavioral healthcare, substance abuse treatment, HIV care coordination, employment services, and housing services. Specifically, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population is a marginalized group of people that often struggle to find appropriate services. Some LGBT individuals with a mental illness describe the process of recovery and community integration as very complicated due to the additional barriers related to the combination of stressors related to sexual orientation or gender identity and having a mental illness. A goal of Aspire is to help consumers navigate those barriers and provide support.

Identifying as LGBT is not a mental illness. However, research suggests that LGBT people are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.  This is due to several factors including discrimination and other negative experiences that LGBT individuals face from family members, peers, co-workers, and strangers.

At Aspire, you can have a different experience. You can feel welcomed and supported. You can feel safe and be free of discrimination. Aspire strives to ensure that LGBT individuals seeking mental health care have access to the same quality of services as everyone else.

The following are some common questions individuals may have regarding Aspire’s services for LGBT consumers:

What does “LGBT” stand for?
LGBT is shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The “LGB” in this term refers to sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is defined as an often-enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions of men to women or women to men (heterosexual), of women to women or men to men (homosexual), or by men or women to both sexes (bisexual). It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on these attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions and behaviors. The “T” in this term stands for transgender or gender non-conforming, and is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.

Is homosexuality a mental disorder?
No. Research has proven that there is no association between sexual orientation and psychopathology. Heterosexual and homosexual behaviors are both normal aspects of human sexuality and have been well documented in many different cultures and historical eras.

What is Aspire’s stance on LGBT issues?
Aspire assures that comprehensive policies are implemented to prohibit discrimination in the delivery of services to LGBT consumers and their families. Aspire ensures that all staff use, and all written forms and policies employ, culturally appropriate language when dealing with LGBT consumers and their families.

What can I expect during the intake process?
Our intake paperwork does include questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Aspire continually revises existing intake procedures to ensure that they meet the needs of LGBT consumers and their families. All consumers have the right to refuse to disclose information pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Will my therapist try to change my sexual orientation?
No. Your therapist will respect your sexual preferences and work with you to support all aspects of your life.

Will my therapist understand my sexual orientation or gender identity?
All of our therapists are trained in understanding all aspects of an individual, including that of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Will my sexual orientation or gender identity affect the way I am treated when I seek help?
No. All LGBT individuals will receive the same sensitivity and quality of services as anyone else.

Will my sexual orientation or gender identity be included in my treatment plan?
Treatment plans will include and address sexual orientation and gender identity where it is necessary and appropriate in client care. If an individual does not want issues pertaining to their sexual orientation or gender identity addressed in their treatment at Aspire then that will not be included in the treatment plan.

Will I be asked to hide my sexual orientation or gender identity in order to receive housing or employment support?
No. Aspire employees will work with you to ensure that you feel safe and confident in being yourself. Housing specialists will ensure that a housing option meets your personal needs related to your sexual and/or gender identity. Employment specialists will ensure that you are placed in a supportive workplace environment.

If I reveal my sexual orientation or gender identity to Aspire, how do I know that information is safe and secure?
Aspire ensures the confidentiality of all consumer data per the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), including information about sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

How does Aspire handle transgender consumers?
We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for all consumers. We are sensitive to additional concerns of the transgender community (for example, using one’s preferred name and pronoun). We are also continually working to create inclusive environments (for example, single stall bathrooms accessible to all genders).

At Aspire, LGBT consumers with mental illnesses are entitled to the same range and quality of services offered, with the same recovery and community integration goals, as everyone else. Aspire strives to create the same opportunities for all its consumers to lead fulfilling lives. We continually seek out and implement feedback from all consumers on ways to make our environment and services offered inclusive to all consumers, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Please contact Aspire with any additional concerns or feedback regarding services for the LGBT community.

Editor’s note: Free HIV testing is available to all Aspire consumers

About the Author: Colin Dietz, MA, is a Doctoral Phychology Intern with Aspire Indiana. While the beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mr. Dietz, you can learn more about Aspire Indiana athttps://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana.

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