The Importance of Trans-Friendly Treatment

Taking that first step to get clean and sober is hard. It might seem like everything is working against you — your body is fighting withdrawal symptoms and your mind is tossing up every flavor of denial it can come up with. The last thing you need is treatment that ends up making you feel worse. Additionally, LGBTQ addiction treatment needs to be sensitive and responsive to the specific needs of this community. The need for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) addiction treatment is well-documented in the research. The statistics tell the story: LGBTQ people make up a disproportionately high percentage of people struggling with addiction, but a disproportionately low percentage of people receiving treatment. For some people in the LGBTQ community, seeking targeted LGBTQ addiction treatment might feel unnecessary or undesirable. For some, it is more comfortable to identify as an addict first, with gender identity and/or sexual orientation a secondary and potentially unrelated issue. However, for many members of the LGBTQ community, the experiences in addiction treatment are another instance where being misunderstood, feared, despised or discriminated against (or at the very least, made to feel awkward, uncomfortable or different). It goes without saying that those experiences do not make a supportive environment for recovery from addiction.

Why Trans-Friendly Treatment?

  • Homophobia and transphobia exist among treatment professionals. It may not be pervasive, but you can trust that a trans-friendly treatment program has specifically addressed the issues with staff, and that ongoing trainings continue to support staff in providing sensitive and appropriate treatment to all clients.
  • Co-morbidity of mental health issues. Research has shown that people with addiction issues who identify as transgender, or other members of the LGBTQ community, are more likely to also experience depression, anxiety and emotional trauma. Thus, for some people struggling with addiction who identify as transgender, the route to addiction began as self-medicating for other issues. Until those issues are addressed, addiction treatment is stymied.
  • Getting sober involves breaking through denial and getting honest. Doing so can be a painful and shattering process, one in which years or even decades of guilt, shame, blame and other deeply painful emotions may come up and need to be processed. Doing that work in an emotionally and physically safe place is critical to doing it as fully and effectively as possible. For people who identify as transgender, such safe places can be hard to find. LGBTQ addiction treatment makes that safety a priority.
  • Beyond language and bathrooms. While using respectful terminology and gender-neutral bathrooms are positive, concrete and visible changes to make in the treatment community, trans-friendly treatment goes deeper than that. Helping people who identify as transgendered to work through the cultural issues of living in a hostile world is an important aspect of this type of substance abuse treatment. Developing healthy coping strategies is a key aspect of trans-friendly treatment.
  • Transphobia in the health care environment. For many people who identify as transgendered, seeking health care or other professional services has likely been a minefield of assumptions, prejudices and discrimination. Reversing that experience and ensuring that substance abuse treatment is provided in a safe and respectful manner improves outcomes.

Trans-friendly treatment may sound like a new buzzword, but being respectful of all people who seek help for addiction is not a fad or trend. It is simply the best way to fight addiction and help all people recover. Sources

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