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Choosing Private LGBT-Friendly Treatment Centers

According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 30 percent of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population are substance abusers. This higher-than-average rate of addiction can be attributed to a variety of factors. The physical, emotional and mental health issues related to addiction are complicated by additional issues related to being in the GLBT community, which is often targeted with homophobia, suspicion, and even violence. Addiction issues will continues to worsen without intensive, specialized treatment, in turn further damaging your sense of self, mental health and physical being. It is crucial to find a rehab center experienced in managing your specific concerns regarding GLBT issues in addition to your drug or alcohol addiction.

Why Choose a GLBT Treatment Center?

Members of the GLBT community may struggle with personal matters that are difficult to manage, and these issues can lead to risky behaviors that cause addiction to drugs or alcohol. As reported by the Board on the Health of Select Populations, GLBT issues that directly affect rehab centers and the care they provide include:

  • Bias against the GLBT community from the medical community and other treatment facilities
  • Being seen as a sexual deviant by those who do not understand GLBT culture
  • Rejection from the general community, and the patient community in treatment
  • A lack of comprehensive medical care that takes into account GLBT needs
  • Misunderstanding of the emotion behind coming out to family and friends
  • Addressing changes in appearance and body structure that come with transgender surgery
  • Parenting issues for those needing treatment who have children
Physical ailments that are connected to the GLBT population, including sexually transmitted diseases and mental health problems, are often stigmatized within the medical community itself, and some researchers face discrimination simply by exploring LGBT issues. However, GLBT alcohol and drug rehab centers specialize in incorporating medical and mental health treatment into their addiction therapy programs, treating the whole body in dependence recovery. Through treatment at one of these centers, you will not need to hide your addiction, physical or mental problems; they will be treated in conjunction with each other.

GLBT rehab centers also determine the best course of treatment for their male and female patients, which may require different specialties. As reported by Nalgap, the National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals, gay men and lesbians are at significant risk for ongoing alcoholism, along with Ecstasy and methamphetamine use. Transgender individuals often need higher levels of mental health services to cope with identity issues, drug abuse issues, and resolving the shame that they may feel for not fulfilling family or community expectations. These specific addiction issues can be properly treated at a facility designed with the GLBT community in mind by using differing drug therapies and emotional strategies than for non-GLBT patients.

What to Expect at a Center Designed for Gay or Lesbian Patients

While the common programs that all rehab centers have in place are essential to any addiction program, GLBT programs have additional, targeted supports in place. These include:

  • Empathy. This includes understanding of and openness to transgender issues in relation to names, bathroom facilities and rooming situations. The facilities will also encourage patients to be honest about their emotions and identity.
  • Dual or triple diagnosis therapy. GLBT alcohol and drug rehab programs offer diagnoses that go beyond the addiction itself. Often members of this community are addicted to more than one drug at a time, which can make withdrawal more difficult and a relapse more likely. In addition, depression and anxiety are often strong influences in addiction, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals encounter homophobic and accusatory individuals on a daily basis. In addition, GLBT members may have underlying medical conditions that are frightening or difficult to manage, such as HIV or hepatitis.
  • Discretion. GLBT drug and alcohol rehab programs offer as much discretion as possible. Often, GLBT individuals have encountered so much homophobia and suspicion that they are simply unwilling to self-identify as being a member of the gay community. They are open to share their sexual orientation without fear at a GLBT-focused rehab center.

Extra Perks May Be Available

Some ways that some GLBT rehab centers go the extra mile to make you feel at home and in control during their time in rehab include:

  • Extended care in a private room
  • Fun experiences, including movie viewings, wilderness programs and hiking opportunities
  • Exercise programs, including yoga and swimming classes
  • Family meetings and family therapy sessions

Questions to Ask

Finding a qualified, experienced treatment center that specializes in the complex issues facing the GLBT community can seem difficult. The following are some questions to ask when choosing the right treatment center for you:

  • What are the components of alcohol and drug rehab for your institution?
  • What are your success rates?
  • What are your confidentiality agreements? Is my sexual orientation going to be reported to state or county officials, or my employer?
  • Are your doctors and therapists trained in issues related to the gay community?
  • How do you handle incidents of bias against patients in the GLBT community within your facility?
  • Do you allow a partner to be considered next of kin?
  • Are GLBT members segregated in any way from the rest of the patients at the facility?

Goal Differences In GLBT and Heterosexual Drug Treatment Centers

While the purpose of rehab is to break the cycle of addiction and give you the skills to cope in a sober life, centers treating GLBT members often have more complex goals. You may need help with fundamental identity issues that relate to your addiction. You must understand why you abused drugs or alcohol, and how those reasons may tie into struggles you have in your daily life. Good programs will help you manage the complexities of GLBT issues along with your addiction.

How Can I Find a Qualified GLBT Rehab Center?

Resources for finding a treatment center that can handle your specific addiction and GLBT issues include:

  • Our hotline, which can help you find a center in your area that specializes in your particular addiction and GLBT situation.
  • The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has a resource page of top GLBT clinics.
  • Your primary care physician may have additional treatment options, along with mental health providers in your area that handle GLBT issues.

While GLBT patients may find competent care in rehab facilities that do not specialize in GLBT issues, the complexities of living in a world that does not always support the lifestyle of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals can be extremely difficult. Addressing these complexities in your addiction treatment is essential to long-term sobriety and success.

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