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Dealing with Homophobia in Addiction Treatment

Written By: Harris House

Category: Addiction, LGBTQ addiction

Hands forming a heart.

For LGBTQ addicts, finding the right addiction treatment program is pivotal.

Addiction is a complex and personal disease. For each individual, a variety of diverse factors can lead to addiction. It follows that treatment is equally complex and mandates an individualized approach. There’s no better example of this than LGBTQ addiction. Here’s a closer look at why addressing LGBTW issues matters in the rehab, along with what you can do if you or someone you love is encountering homophobia while in treatment.

About LGBTQ Addiction Treatment

LGBTW individuals have a greater risk of experiencing a substance use disorder in their lifetimes compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. Many of the overall treatment modalities are consistent regardless of sexual orientation, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), social support therapy, contingency management, and motivational interviewing.

However, research also indicates that addiction treatment programs that offer specialized groups for LGBTQ individuals lead to better outcomes than for LGBTQ individuals in non-specialized programs. Specifically, targeted treatments for LGBTQ people should address the unique factors that may have led to substance use, misuse, and addiction. These include homophobia/transphobia, family problems and lack of acceptance, violence and trauma, and social isolation.

The problem? Despite widespread understanding that targeted treatment for LGBTQ addiction is best, just 7.4 percent of rehab centers offer specialized services for members of the LGBTQ community.

Group of people meeting in a circle.

The operating word in “support group”? Support. Unfortunately, this is sometimes not the case when homophobia is allowed to exist.

Homophobia and Addiction Treatment

Research shows that LGBTQ individuals face higher levels of discrimination and rejection. This can lead to feelings of stress, loneliness, and anxiety. These same feelings can lead to substance use and misuse as a form of self-medication and a coping mechanism.  If encountered during treatment or recovery, these same feelings can lead to relapse.

Many LGBTQ individuals are fearful of traditional treatment facilities, and with good reason. There’s no guarantee that the damaging bias and stigma they’ve encountered throughout their lives won’t be perpetuated in these environments. In fact, research shows that many LGBTQ people avoid accessing healthcare because of discrimination.

In addition to the chance of homophobic behaviors and inappropriate comments made by others in treatment, staff and counselors may also become part of the problem – -especially if they lack adequate training in cultural competency. Unfortunately, this can not only cause further harm to an addict’s self-esteem, but it can also prevent them from letting down their guard, which is a critical component in supporting understanding, awareness, and healing.

All of this begs the question: If your rehab program doesn’t offer specialized services,  or if you’re encountering homophobia or other issues while in rehab, what can you do? If you or someone you love encounters unfriendly or discriminatory practices during treatment, report it. An even better course of action, however, is seeking out a rehab program offering targeted programming for LGBTQ people. Leading St. Louis rehab center Harris House, for example, offers LGBTQ treatment programs aimed at best supporting the needs and recovery of members of the LGBTQ community.   Call us today to learn about admissions.

Coronavirus Update
Harris House takes the coronavirus threat very seriously and has taken many precautions to keep our clients and our community safe. Read how we are handling treatment during this critical time.