This past weekend I received an award from an important new non-profit organization called Project Fearless that, as its Facebook page states, “will destigmatize and provide mental health resources to the LGBTQIA community in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts by partnering with local agencies. We aim to direct prospective individuals to affordable treatment options. Project Fearless will also provide financial assistance to low-income individuals seeking mental health treatment.”
It’s so awesome to now hold the distinction of being “the inaugural winner of the Project Fearless Award for Excellence in Therapeutic Service to the LGBTQ Community.”
Below is a reprint of the remarks I presented at the event, minus the appreciation and thank you’s to Project Fearless and those who’ve supported me over the years.
First, I have a confession to make to Project Fearless–which is that I’m anything but fearless, especially when it comes to this kind of thing, talking in front of a big group of people—which I know some people call public speaking, but I call public freaking.
But despite this fear I did take on some public speaking/freaking earlier in my career, in the 80’s and 90’s mostly. Since the 1970’s I’d always been the token out person everywhere I worked. Most coworkers didn’t really get LGBT issues–the QIA+ was silent back then. Many didn’t even know they were actually seeing LGBT clients. Their clients were invisible.
So, I couldn’t NOT do it. I felt it was my duty to start offering workshops to other mental health professionals. And to the community.
Around the same time I was at a career crossroads: I knew I had to get out of my mainstream agency and expand my own small practice–but could I do it? For lots of reasons, it so happened, I couldn’t think straight about it. (Think straight about it.) (Too old a joke?)
So…What do people do to sort out issues…? I looked for a therapist. My first choice was to find a gay or lesbian one; unfortunately I couldn’t…
Which was too bad because what many people didn’t get back then was my need to be an out therapist to clients.
I couldn’t be deterred, though. I’d seen the positive results. When clients at the mental health center were brave enough to broach the subject with me, I came out to them–and always to much appreciation and relief. There was no question it helped.
I did ultimately decide, of course, to do things my way and build my full-time practice–which is not limited, by the way, to our community. Even brave non-LGBT folks also come see me.
IN SUMMARY, 3 BRIEF BOTTOM LINES:
1) It matters a lot that Everyone be comfortable and safe in therapy.
2) Being authentic in both our life and our work benefits everyone.
3) Fears: We all have them. And life has never been about not having them; it’s about dealing with them so we can move on and do the things that are important.
Speaking of which, Congratulations to Project Fearless–a venture that is SO going to matter! And one that’s been needed for a very long time!