PEI

How mental health services can improve for P.E.I.'s LGBTQ community

Therapists on P.E.I. need more training when it comes to providing mental health help to LGBTQ people, says the founder of a group specializing in that community.

'You're asking somebody to be incredibly vulnerable with you when they're coming to see you for therapy'

'Just to have truly competent and affirming services, which are very different than welcoming and accepting, there's a real knowledge piece that goes under that,' says Alice Curitz, founder and clinical director of the Our Landing Place Therapy Collective. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Therapists on P.E.I. need more training when it comes to providing mental health help to LGBTQ people, says the founder of a group specializing in that community.

Alice Curitz, founder and clinical director of the Our Landing Place Therapy Collective, told Mainstreet host Laura Chapin people not in the LGBTQ community can miss important nuances about how to make someone comfortable, even if they are well intentioned.

"Just to have truly competent and affirming services, which are very different than welcoming and accepting, there's a real knowledge piece that goes under that," said Curitz.

"You're asking somebody to be incredibly vulnerable with you when they're coming to see you for therapy. And so having that knowledge gap bridged can really, really build that sense of, OK, this is a place that I can be me, that I'm not going to be questioned about things or that things about me aren't going to be assumed."

Therapists can stumble early in the process, she said, by having an intake form that doesn't leave a space for a gender other than male or female, or that doesn't have a space for preferred pronouns. These can be immediate red flags and create a sense of discomfort before the therapist and the patient even meet.

Therapists will also sometimes assume that a person's sexuality or gender identity is connected to their mental health problem, when that might not be the case.

LGBTQ training for therapists

Joanne Donahoe, executive director of mental health and addictions for Health PEI, said they are working with the local community to improve services. The goal is for all therapists and clinicians to get competency training for dealing with the LGBTQ community.

"It does take time," said Donahoe.

"But every year we seek to have people identify their professional development needs and then they identify where their gaps are."

Curitz said she understands that it can be a long training process, and that there are many other areas of practice requiring training and updating, but it is important that the government is listening to the local community.

Curitz and Donahoe will be part of a Pride Festival panel discussion at the Delta Hotel in Charlottetown Monday evening, Fixing Mental Health Supports Post-COVID, from 5 to 7 p.m.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.

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