In a word – absolutely! I absolutely love providing couples counseling for same-sex and transgender couples. And it surprises me how many couples therapists out there either don’t want to, or don’t feel qualified to work with the LGBT community. One of the things I love about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) and attachment theory (in which EFT is largely rooted), is that it provides great latitude for therapists to work with whatever unique issues a couple brings into the therapy room. But EFT and attachment theory also recognize that the underlying causes of a couple’s distress is rooted in feeling insecurely attached to one’s partner, and that such distress manifests itself similarly regardless of the genders of the individuals.
I was very lucky that, early in my career, one of the very first couples I worked with was a lesbian couple. I don’t know how they found me since I was not actively marketing myself yet in the LGBT community. But for some reason they felt comfortable talking to me (a straight, 50 year old white guy!). At that time I knew only theoretically that EFT would “work” with a lesbian couple but I was a bit nervous as to whether or not I could put that theory into practice. Would I be distracted by their same-sexedness (I just now made up that word… look out Stephen Colbert)? Would they be put off by my old-white-guy-ness? I think it took me all of two minutes to confirm that the issues they were ultimately telling me about were the same as the different-sex couples I had been seeing until then. That boosted my confidence and, since then, it barely even registers for me if I am seeing a same-sex or different-sex couple.
But it is not like I aim to treat all couples the same. In fact, the opposite is true. I try hard to treat each couple uniquely and to consider the specific issues they present. What I find though – and what attachment theory and EFT teach – is that once you dig through the content of whatever a couple presents you get down to similar distresses, and those distresses really don’t relate much to the relative genders of the individuals. Rather, they relate to the relative security each feels with themselves, with their partner, and with their relationship.
So that is same-sex couples. What about transgender couples? Well… my experience is almost identical. When I began working with my first transgender couple, I had similar worries as I had had when I was seeing my first same-sex couple. And, to my great pleasure, the same thing happened. In a matter of a couple of minutes I had completely forgotten about my worries and I found myself just working with two individuals who were trying to find their way back to each other and feel safe and secure in their relationship. Yes… they were presenting surface issues that were different from the cisgender couple I had seen right before them. But that cisgender couple was presenting surface issues that were different from the couple I had seen before them too. The differences were the same!
Now I just plow forward happily with whomever happens to be sitting in front of me. I am not afraid to ask about gender and sex, just as I am not afraid to ask about race and religion. And when someone’s experience is different from mine, I get curious and ask about it. I find that people are relieved that I don’t pretend to know about their unique experience, regardless of who they are.
I am happy that I have found such comfort working in the LGBT community. It adds a diversity to my practice that keeps me interested and interesting. I love my work and I love working with couples. Absolutely!
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