What flavor is your support today?

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Most of us in the early years of our lives gained and had the support of family, friends, and professionals. This was most likely because we didn’t realize what course our lives would take. So, even though some of this article may be slanted toward one sector of the GLBT community, in actuality, it may have segments that hit home for all.

Of course, we must take into account even after we aligned our lives with our part of the GLBTIQ community, that the support of family and friends took place without any of them knowing where any of us truly wanted to be. We built around ourselves a wall, barrier, or we put ourselves into a closet so that no one could come close to finding us out. Yet, that wall may have, at some point in time, acquired pin holes, where it caused people to guess or have clues toward where our life’s road was heading.

Then, too, we had to search out extensively for those we could really trust. While, searching for trust worthy professionals, confidentiality was and is very important for anyone in the GLBTIQ community, even today. This confidentiality is needed for many issues and avenues that one faces, not just from family, professionals and friends, but also from co-workers, landlords, and employers. Then, too, we seek out therapists and support groups that can be not only supportive, but also ones in who can be trusted with information on who and what we are.

We search in hopes of finding a group or professional that helps us with the issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and a person that has largely been ignored or pushed aside in the society and schools. There are numerous social taboos surrounding issues of sexuality and LGBTIQ issues in particular.  Bringing these issues into the spotlight may make some people aware of how to deal with them. Myths may replace facts, fears may overshadow professional responsibility and those are so important in our search for genuine help professionally of on a peer level with what one is facing.

Let us proceed with the finding of a good therapist or support group.  I must say, there are more today, than in years gone by. One must still be careful in selecting one.  Choosing one of either is like choosing flavors like, rocky road or an orange smoothie and  then making sure they are of a digestible nature, or that of a soured substance.  There are still those in the profession that have no idea how to be a therapist for anyone who classifies themselves as transgender and I am sure there are those for lesbians and gays, as well.

A good counselor or facilitator should make a person feel comfortable  enough to talk in depth about their problems, but not so comfortable that the person feels no need to work on underlying issues outside the counseling or group sessions. Keep in mind that it’s what  happens outside the counseling session that makes the difference. The sessions themselves are merely a means to this end.  After overcoming the initial nervousness of actually getting to a counseling or group session and sitting down to tell a complete stranger all your problems, a good counselor or facilitator should be working to make you feel comfortable about being there and what you’re doing.  

A good counselor or facilitator will need to caringly confront blind spots in the person’s outlook and challenge them to take sometimes-difficult action that will improve the situation. I’d be inclined to separate these two sources of "discomfort" if you like,  since a person seeking help may be reluctant to take the sort of action that may be necessary to address  the underlying problem, yet it would be counterproductive for the counselor to allow them to remain stuck where they are.   A persons’ discomfort with their situation is one of the things that will help motivate them to take action, which may help improve the situation, so in this sense a counselor or facilitator who simply makes the person "feel better" may be doing them a disservice.   A good counselor or facilitator should take time to build rapport and listen effectively to the person’s feelings and situation first and there should be a balance between feeling heard and feeling challenged and empowered to change the situation.

It’s an unfortunate fact that some counselors or group facilitators violate the boundaries and trust of the people who seek their help. If something that happens in a counseling or group session that makes a person feel uncomfortable with the counselor or facilitator, it’s worth keeping this in mind since that feeling may be an alarm bell ringing that something is wrong with the process itself.  Of course this is difficult because the person seeking help may be in something of a vulnerable position and overwhelmed with what is happening in their lives, and is the professionals or facilitators responsibility to ensure that the boundaries with the person are absolutely respected.  I do feel though that knowing more about just what this "counseling of facilitating" thing really  entails would help protect people from counselors or facilitators who do violate the trust of the people who seek their help.  

Knowing what you want from a counselor will go a long way towards working on the problem you wish to address; although it’s probably fair to say that most people going for counseling or support initially "don’t know", or rather, they know, but they just don’t know where to start – that’s why they come. Writing down and prioritizing the things you wish to work on will help focus things, and also shows the counselor or facilitator that you’re serious and motivated about working on the problems. A good  counselor or facilitator should ask at the beginning of the session what you’d like to work on, or at the very least should pay attention when you try to tell them what you want to focus on.  If the counselor or facilitator is determined to put you through an intensive course of hypnotherapy  before they’ve even heard part of the story.   It’s probably time to find a new counselor or facilitator. On the other hand, they shouldn’t completely neglect important issues that the person seeking help may be reluctant to address because they seem difficult, either.

The person seeking help and the counselor or facilitator should work as a team.  The counselor or facilitator may have some expertise in problem solving, emotional dynamics, relationships, etc., but it’s the person seeking help who is the expert on the situation in question. The best solutions to the problems presented are likely to come from the person seeking help rather than the counselor or facilitator, so the counselor is really there to facilitate the development of these solutions rather than to offer advice which may not be appropriate. Ideally, the person seeking help should have control over what happens, and what they work on — the counselor or facilitator may offer suggestions at times, but the person seeking help should be empowered to "own" and have the ultimate say over the process.  A rocky road flavored counselor or facilitator will offer no suggestions or hope.

Different counselors or facilitators tend to follow different patterns of help, according to their personal preference and the way in which they were trained. The skill of the counselor or facilitator has been shown to be a more important factor in their effectiveness than the particular type of help or practice.  A good counselor or  facilitator will be able to adjust their counseling or facilitating to the needs of the person, but it’s worth keeping in mind that any counselor or facilitator is likely to be more skilled in the particular mode of help that they specialize in.  The degree of motivation of the person  seeking help is probably generally a greater factor in the effectiveness of counseling or facilitating than the skill of the counselor or facilitator. A orange smoothie flavored counselor or facilitator should be able to maximize the person’s motivation to resolve or work on the underlying problems, so the two are intertwined.

It’s the difference in finding genuine help that makes you feel as good as drinking an orange smoothie, or finding help that will have you driving down one of the worst rocky roads in your life.