At Included Health, it’s our belief that members of the LGBTQ+ community always deserve to have affirming providers and culturally competent care. (See our previous blog for ways that affirming therapy can benefit the queer and trans community.) This belief is why we help match our members with vetted providers as part of our care coordinator offering.
We’re proud of the care our members have received from Amira Gregory, a Black queer mental health provider in California. Amira specializes in helping adults in coping with challenges associated with anxiety, depression, gender and sexuality related issues, grief and loss, self-esteem, and identity exploration. Amira is one of the 5,500+ LGBTQ+ affirming providers in our directory, and we want you to be able to hear directly from them.
Meet Amira Gregory
Throughout my life, I have experienced several challenges with my mental health and embracing my identities as a Black queer person. These challenges led me to seek support from several mental health professionals that I did not feel connected to or affirmed by. Thankfully, through my Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies classes in college, I felt seen and validated in ways that I hadn’t experienced before. I was given the language to describe the complex ways in which my identities are inextricably tied to my mental health and overall wellbeing.
As my knowledge regarding health disparities deepened, so did my commitment to serving the mental health needs of Black and Indigenous People of Color and the LGBTQ+ community. I decided to pursue a Master of Social Work degree so I could gain the skills to provide affirming mental health care that is supportive of each individual’s journey toward healing.
As a queer therapist, I am upfront with clients about my queerness and am open with the fact that I am still in the process of identity exploration. I do this to help connect with clients through our common lived experiences and to normalize identity exploration as an ongoing process – even for therapists! It’s important for LGBTQ+ clients to feel comfortable with sharing their experiences with me, while knowing that they will be deeply seen and heard.
Challenges to mental healthcare in the LGBTQ+ community
The specific challenges that people within the LGBTQ+ community face are extremely important to me, given that queer and trans people experience challenges with accessing healthcare that is both affordable and affirming of their identities. Due to a lack of comprehensive healthcare training programs, as well as the homophobia and transphobia engrained in many healthcare systems, access to healthcare providers that have the skills to navigate LGBTQ+ issues with care is limited. This lack of competence coupled with insurance barriers to affirming healthcare can result in people in our community simply not receiving the healthcare they need.
Some challenges that I’ve seen firsthand working with LGBTQ+ clients include internalizing a lot of shame about their identities—often coming from experiences with their family, or experiences within religion, school, or social circles. Depression and suicidality are also prevalent issues that seem to disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ clients. Finding chosen family and support systems that validate and reflect their identities is especially important for LGBTQ+ clients, however it is difficult for some clients to connect with others due to social isolation, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Feeling comfortable with their identities as well as finding their place in the LGBTQ+ community often takes time and gentle exploration with the help of an affirming mental health provider.
Understanding privilege and bias in treating members of the LGBTQ+ Community
It’s our job as healthcare providers to help patients from the LGBTQ+ community feel more welcomed and accepted. We can start by using inclusive language in paperwork and policies, (e.g., asking for pronouns and chosen name, avoiding gender-specific terms).
When working with clients with intersecting marginalized identities, it’s important to bring those identities into the conversation as factors that might be impacting their health concerns, as well. On the other hand, being aware of the long history of pathologizing LGBTQ+ experiences is crucial in understanding how to navigate conversations without conceptualizing their identities as a problem that needs to be solved.
Lastly, I urge fellow healthcare providers to engage in self-inquiry to understand their own privileges and biases that play a role in how they engage with clients and continue to educate themselves on how to support LGBTQ+ clients and reduce the likelihood of harm.
At Included Health, we strive to provide friendly and exceptional healthcare navigation services to the LGBTQ+ community.Learn more about ourLGBTQ+ Health services for your employees, and please do not hesitate to contact us to #GetIncluded for your company, health plan, and community. If you are an employee or member looking for assistance, please visit ourLGBTQ+ Member Hub to get started.
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