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social sciences

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Models of lesbian affirmative therapy did not blossom until the mid-1980s with the publication of Marny Hall's The Lavender Couch: A Consumer's Guide to Psychotherapy for Lesbians and Gay Men (1985) and the Boston Lesbian Psychologies Collective issue of Lesbian Psychologies in 1987. Lesbian affirmative models generally still utilized the term gay affirmative, although they recognized its limitations, particularly its emphasis on male experience and identity.

Bisexual identity development was not documented professionally until Fritz Klein's The Bisexual Option in 1993, and Martin Weinberg, Colin Williams, and Douglas Pryor's Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality in 1994.

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Professional writings that depathologize transgender identity development have only become available within recent years. These include Mildred Brown's True Selves (1996), Gianna Israel's Transgender Care (1998), Randi Ettner's Gender Loving Care (1999), and Arlene Istar Lev's Transgender Emergence (2004). Affirmative psychological models of bisexual and transgender psychotherapy are still rare, and clinical models continue overwhelmingly to emphasize psychopathology.


Within a postmodern worldview, gay affirmative therapy may appear to be an historic relic that was once necessary to counterbalance the homophobia of the extant therapeutic systems. Certainly, a more contemporary glbtq affirmative therapy needs to have a broader understanding of sex and gender identity development within a cross cultural context, and to recognize the numerous pathways and outcomes for healthy human psychosexual identity formation.

Although the term "gay affirmative" does not do justice to the wide array of sexual and gender identities and sexual minority communities included under the banner of glbtq identity, the basic need for psychotherapeutic models that embrace and support diverse sexual expressions remains urgent. Gay affirmative psychotherapy created the necessary foundation: a therapeutic model that viewed same-sex identity and relationships as potentially healthy and natural.

The work to depathologize bisexuality and gender-variant identities continues, but would not be possible without the existence of gay affirmative psychotherapy. Given the power mental health institutions have wielded over the lives of glbtq people, it is doubtful that many legal rights--domestic partnership benefits, gay marriage, same-sex adoption--would have been granted to a population deemed mentally ill.

It is to be noted, however, that there are still researchers and clinicians such as Irving Bieber, Joseph Nicolosi, Charles Socarides, and organizations such as the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH] that still view homosexuality as psychopathology and are opposed to gay affirmative psychotherapy models.

Moreover, gay affirmative psychotherapy has not yet been fully integrated within the psychological or social work professions, and even those psychotherapists who profess to be accepting often lack in-depth education on the psychosocial issues and needs of glbtq people.

Nevertheless, glbtq affirmative models of therapy are accepted today within the mainstream of helping professions, and have the institutional support of most major professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, which have all have developed strong policy statements depathologizing homosexuality and supporting same-sex relationships and gay families.

Arlene Istar Lev

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A form of behavior modification that employs unpleasant and sometimes painful stimuli, aversion therapy was one of the more popular treatments for homosexuality and cross-dressing in the 1950s and 1960s.

social sciences >> Overview:  Counseling

In recent years there has been a push for glbtq-sensitive counselor training and glbtq-affirmative counseling, which, although occurring slowly and encountering resistance, marks a significant move in a positive direction.

social sciences >> Overview:  Developmental Psychology

Glbtq identity development has not yet been fully integrated into mainstream theories of psychological development, but recent work promises to further our understanding of the life experiences of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family Therapy

Glbtq family therapy is a relatively new field that merges gay-affirmative therapy with family systems theory; its goal is to help glbtq people create and maintain healthy families.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis, which began as a therapeutic procedure, ultimately became one of the most powerful methods of cultural analysis and critique of the twentieth-century.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Addiction

A compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict's life, sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder that frequently causes severe stress on the addict and his or her friends and family.

social sciences >> Overview:  Social Work

Since the 1990s, Social Work has slowly become a more glbtq-friendly profession.

social sciences >> Altman, Dennis

Australian political scientist and self-described "international activist-academic" Dennis Altman has studied both the glbtq political movement and the globalization of sexual identities.

social sciences >> Duberman, Martin Bauml

Historian, biographer, essayist, playwright, and academic, Martin Bauml Duberman is an astute commentator on gender and race issues and a pioneer in glbtq studies.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.

social sciences >> Gittings, Barbara

A pioneer in the American gay rights movement, Barbara Gittings worked tirelessly within the American Library Association to make material with glbtq content more accessible to the reading public.

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One of the founding fathers of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny helped radicalize the homophile movement, preparing the way for the mass movement for equality initiated by the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

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social sciences >> Lyon, Phyllis, (b. 1924) and Del Martin (1921-2008)

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were among the founders of a lesbian liberation movement that developed and enlarged the very definition of lesbianism.

social sciences >> Sissy Boy Syndrome

When the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, it added in its place "Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood," or "The Sissy Boy Syndrome."

social sciences >> Vincenz, Lilli

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Bayer, Ronald. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Cabaj, Robert, and Terry Stein, eds. Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health. Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1996.

D'Augelli, Anthony, and Charlotte Patterson, eds. Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities Over the Lifespan: Psychological Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Davies, Dominic, and Charles Neal, eds. Pink Therapy: A Guide for Counselors and Therapists Working with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Clients. Buckingham: Open University Press 1996.

Garnets, Linda, and Douglas Kimmel, eds. Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Male Experiences. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Gonsiorek, John, ed. Homosexuality and Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Handbook of Affirmative Models. New York: Haworth Press, 1993.

Greene, Beverly, and Gregory M. Herek, eds. Lesbian and Gay Psychology: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1994.

Isay, Richard A. Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-acceptance. New York: Pantheon, 1996.


    Citation Information
    Author: Lev, Arlene Istar  
    Entry Title: Psychotherapy  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated November 20, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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