As a graduate student studying healthy relationships, I felt ashamed at how badly my relationships looked on paper. My friendships and love life were disintegrating like the petals of a plucked rose. I was full of shame. . . and vodka.
To figure out how I could get my wayward boat back on track, I booked a European vacation. The beach, a big journal and lots of fresh air would get me there!
As I sat on the beach in southern Spain, I realized that I had no idea who I was, what I was passionate about or what made me happy. Investing all of my energy in criticizing my partner and festering over old familial wounds had really zapped my flourishing.
I decided that if I was going to be a clinician someday, I better get my life in order. So I put down the vodka, drank my own medicine and found a reputable therapist.
During my time in therapy, I began to experience major epiphanies and changes that set my life and relationships right-side up. Over time I realized that my therapist was helping me awakened my numb, hollow body. It felt incredible to say, “I remember who I am!”
Counseling for us in the LGBTQ+ community can be scary, but there are several benefits to counseling. My favorites are the ways it helps us connect to others and ourselves. Here are my top 4 ways:
Many LGBTQ people experience anger that keeps them from connecting; counseling allows you to identify the source of anger and to talk about other primary emotions like sadness, embarrassment, failure that live beneath anger. Thus, rather than exploding in anger, you can communicate your primary emotions, leading to greater trust and cohesion.
Another major communication tool that counseling can offer is finding the best terms to describe yourself. My therapeutic journey led me to come out as a queer, gender non-conforming person, and without my therapist, I would not have found the words to accurately described who I was and what I needed from my loved ones.
2. Ending Repeating Arguments
Let’s face it, whether two people double down on opposing positions or a back-and-forth simply cycles repeatedly in our heads, some arguments keep repeating.
Counseling gave me new remedies for recurring arguments surrounding emotions or frustrations that popped up in my day-to-day life. I realized that the context of the argument mattered less than the desire behind it.
3. Changing Unwanted Patterns
As my relationships stabilized and the arguing died down, I could finally tackle my long-standing, shaming behavioral patterns. I realized that I kept soothing my shame with tactics, food and substances that, to be honest, reinforced my shame. I was stuck in a serious loop of hurting, medicating my pain, feeling shamed for meager attempts at relief, all which landed me back at hurting again.
Instead of drinking too much, never-ending, compulsive episodes on Grindr, or sleeping with temporary hunks for a flash of acceptance, I became conscious of my patterns and found a way to break them.
My counselor allowed me to talk about the details of the embarrassing things I had done. His non-judgmental stance and caring posture allowed me to talk about and resolve my biggest hurdles. I love therapy for this very reason, among many others!
4. Clarity & Self-acceptance
Before counseling I had determined that I was dirty for being a queer, gender non-conforming person. My default setting was fixed on the belief that I was inferior to other men and a burden to my religious family and friends. But as I walked out of that room, time after time, I slowly left all of those false messages on the couch where I had just sat.
As a result, my relationships began to feel more comfortable because I could understand their internal mechanisms. I felt like I had control of my ship, something I had never experienced before.
Walking with pride as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and embracing life with a partner has helped me reach levels of life-satisfaction that only existed in my dreams.
I encourage you—if you want to experience these four benefits—to give therapy a try. It could be a life-changing process. Take the plunge! You won’t regret it!