Working with couples who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer presents powerful new opportunities for growth and healing. Due to the way LGBTQ folks have suffered from emotional failures in growing up in a heteronormative society and family system, LGBTQ couples require a newly fashioned couples therapy that takes into account their unique needs and tender hearts.
When we queer folk form attachments, we hope that our previous failures of love, trust, warm and connection will be redeemed. We want a safe space to be ourselves. But this expectation can put an extra burden of the LGBTQ couple. Incidents take place that "rupture" that hope. The hurt and pain can be crushing. We might fight or withdraw. Our best emotional and creative gifts as LGBTQ folks are hard to access when our hearts feel broken.
But very often the worst injury predates adult hurts and pains.
Let's get history of one's attachment models, and the manner in which being queer was or wasn't mirrored, to differentiate the "child self," from the adult. Empathy for our broken selves can become the way the couple grows into a new potential, rather than enact old heteronormative wounds.
I have worked with LGBTQ couples for more than 25 years.
Because of my many years working with the LGBTQ community as a therapist, author, community activist and professor of clinical psychology, I can provide some context for how the LGBTQ couple may be suffering or not getting its needs met. All of the couples counseling method I teach at Antioch University--from Emotion-Focused Therapy, to the Gottman Method, to Image Therapy--are harnessed to an LGBTQ sensitive approach. And when couples are people of color, important principles in working with family issues in African American, Latino, Jewish and Asian backgrounds are employed to provide the maximum form of empathy and the most appropriate and effective interventions
Imago therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and the Gottman method are all approaches that can be helpful for LGBTQ+ couples and families. Here's a brief overview of each approach and how they could be integrated:
- Imago therapy: This approach focuses on improving communication and connection in relationships by helping couples understand and address unconscious patterns that may be causing conflicts or misunderstandings.
- Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): This approach helps couples recognize and express their emotions in a healthy and productive way, and work through conflicts by creating a stronger emotional bond.
- The Gottman method: This approach is based on the idea that relationships thrive when they have a strong foundation of trust, respect, and communication. It focuses on building these skills in order to improve the overall health and satisfaction of the relationship.
To integrate these approaches, especially for queer people of color, a therapist could use techniques from each approach to address the specific needs and challenges of an LGBTQ+ couple or family. For example, imago therapy could be used to help couples understand and address unconscious patterns that may be causing conflict, EFT could be used to help couples express and work through their emotions in a healthy way, and the Gottman method could be used to build skills in trust, respect, and communication. The therapist could also tailor their approach to the specific needs and goals of the couple or family.