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Why Meaningful LGBTQIA+ Inclusion is Vital for Addiction Recovery

LGBTQIA+ Australians looking for addiction and trauma support can face a more challenging search than others.

Many treatment centres and organisations fail to offer specialised support or inclusion for LGBTQIA+ clients. Meanwhile, studies show that treatment programs which do offer specialised programs deliver meaningfully superior and longer-lasting outcomes to LGBTQIA+ clients than those which do not.

Emma Mansell is the Cultural Safety Officer at South Pacific Private, a Rainbow Tick accredited addiction treatment centre in North Sydney and one of the country’s leading treatment centres in trauma-informed care.

Research indicates that LGBTQIA+ inclusive treatment centres should focus not only on addiction but rather a holistic approach. “We know a lot of LGBTQIA+ patients who sought recovery and have experiences with medical practitioners who are homophobic, biphobic and transphobic that have been actively harmful,” Emma says. “Therapists should be supportive in addressing discrimination and the core issues of trauma, family rejection, and bullying.” Emma says.

“Finding a 12 step group or recovery facility who are accepting and inclusive is essential, just like having an LBGTQIA+ therapist,” Emma says. “You don’t have to spend as much time explaining your relationship or worrying you’re being judged”. There are some things that people in our community just ‘get’ that others who haven’t been exposed to the LGBTQIA+ experience do not.”

Active LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity

Honesty and openness is vital for recovery, and the less judgmental the environment is, the easier it is for the recovery process to work.

“Many LGBTQIA+ will share shame over their sexuality, something I’ve personally connected with and now I’m one of the proudest people you’vel ever meet,” Emma says. “Overcoming shame is also a massive part of addiction and recovery, and you don’t want the experience to be compounded by feeling threatened or judged twice-over when it comes to gender and sexuality.”

It’s not solely an issue of comfort, shame or connection either, Emma says, it’s also a matter of staff having the relevant clinical expertise and experience.

Experiences of trauma or emotional abuse can often become part of our development and our own understanding of ourselves.

This can be especially true for cases of childhood trauma or adverse experiences in adolescence. It’s also likely that our experiences of alcohol addiction, drug addiction or sex addiction can be quite different to those who aren’t part of the queer community. Compounding this may be the old stigma around sexual abuse having a causal effect on a person’s sexuality. These experiences are unique to the queer community, and why cultural safety in the therapeutic environment is paramount.

At South Pacific Private there is an organisation-wide focus on providing LGBTQIA+ inclusive care and a safe space for all clients and staff.

“Every day you can feel that focus paying off. From clients to staff it’s just an incredibly comfortable, open and welcoming place,” Emma says. “It makes a real and tangible difference in the experience of every single person here – queeralike.”

The work includes a focus to recruit LGBTQIA+ staff across all levels and on ensuring all staff are trained on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and have clinical expertise in LGBTQIA+ issues. It also includes a culture of continuous improvement which includes a dedicated point person on staff and weekly conversations with LGBTQIA+ clients who can raise issues, concerns or flag additional needs.

“The thing I’m most proud of are the dedicated group sessions that I have created for LGBTQIA+ clients, where you can connect with others who are experiencing struggles and battles as you are,” Emma says. “It’s often said that the opposite of addiction is connection, and being able to forge those connections in this way makes it just more mefailaningful and relevant than ever.”

Learn more about inclusivity at South Pacific Private here, or, to discuss treatment options, give our Intake Team a call on 1800 063 332. 

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