At Pride Institute, LGBTQ is the norm — not the exception. Our highly trained and skilled staff already understand the issues you face as an LGBTQ person, without explanation, and we will help you gain the tools needed for addiction and mental health recovery. This isn’t a track within a larger treatment program, where a few hours each week are set aside to discuss how your sexual identity impacts your substance abuse or mental health issues. Instead, we think who you are should be at the core of the entire treatment process.

Challenges within the LGBTQ community are often unique and nuanced. In traditional treatment centers, these challenges may be unknown, overlooked or unaccepted. As a result, these insensitivities can feel antagonistic and can create an unnecessary layer of feeling misunderstood for patients to navigate through.

These issues quickly become barriers in successful treatment experiences for the LGBTQ individual seeking recovery services. At Pride Institute, we already understand the existing issues of the LGBTQ community so we can get right to work helping you overcome the issues that brought you to treatment.

Unique Treatment for a Unique Community

Our treatment program components are designed to promote successful recovery for the LGBTQ patient and include cultural sensitivity, awareness of the impact of cultural victimization and address issues of internalized shame and negative self-acceptance.

The integrated biopsychosocial model of chemical addiction treatment takes into account the effects of society on the individual and their relationship with the use of chemicals. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) challenges internalized negative beliefs and promotes emotional regulation, helping our patients reach for internal acceptance instead of the nearest bottle or drug.

LGBTQ and Substance Abuse

What does sexual identity or orientation have to do with substance abuse, and why would seeking treatment geared specifically toward the LGBTQ community be beneficial? Those are important questions, but first, it helps to understand that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to use alcohol and drugs than the general population — and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). In fact, CSAT studies show that 20 to 25 percent of gay men and lesbians are heavy alcohol users, compared to three to 10 percent of the heterosexual population.

Attitudes and assumptions regarding homosexuality and chemical abuse have evolved throughout the years. Until 1973, homosexuality was defined as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, while alcoholism and chemical abuse issues were solely perceived as legal problems. At one time, it was even believed that repressed homosexual tendencies actually triggered chemical abuse and dependency. Now we know better, and this myth has been dispelled by solid research.

The Stigma of Negative Messaging

Today, scientists believe that societal factors affect the relationship between substance abuse and the experiences of members of the LGBTQ community. That means that alcohol and chemical dependencies are seen as illnesses of the mind, body and spirit. Despite recent progress, the LGBTQ community remains largely marginalized. In fact, the possibility of oppression in LGBTQ people’s lives is ever-present. Under such conditions, those who identify as LGBTQ experience varying degrees of heterosexism.

Heterosexism is the stigmatization of nonheterosexual forms of emotional and affectional expression, sexual behavior or community. Negative messages about the gay and lesbian lifestyle take place in the form of microaggressions, which can include assumptions and heterosexist jokes or be as severe as threats, acts of humiliation, emotional abuse or even murder. Heterosexism can contribute to internalized homophobia, shame and a negative self-concept, increasing someone’s risk for addiction.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Heterosexism causes many in the LGBTQ community to compartmentalize their lives. On the outside, they may follow the rules of the dominant society and behave in ways that are accepted as the norm in order to fit in and succeed. This double life takes its toll, though, leading some LGBTQ individuals to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope. Others use to numb negative feelings associated with heterosexism, such as isolation, fear, depression, anxiety, anger and mistrust. Still others in the gay community turn to mind-altering substances as a way to cope with stressors caused by the tensions of living under the stigma of marginalization.

In the LGBTQ community, substance use is a large part of many people’s social life. The gay bar scene is regarded as a risk factor for substance abuse among the gay community, though these bars have often been the only places where LGBTQ folks feel free to socialize openly. Often, it’s in the gay bar that an LGBTQ individual finds the opportunity for identity affirmation and acceptance after experiencing rejection from biological family members or others close to them.

Sexual Identity as a Barrier to Treatment

Heterosexism plays a part in chemically dependent LGBTQ individuals’ ability to access effective treatment services. Substance abuse treatment facilities are often not able to meet the needs of this special population. The treatment staff of such facilities may have varying heterosexist assumptions regarding the LGBTQ clients who access their services. They may be uninformed about LGBTQ issues, insensitive to or antagonistic toward LGBTQ clients or hold the outdated believe that homosexuality causes substance abuse or can be changed by therapy. In addition to treatment staff, other clients may have negative attitudes toward LGBTQ patients, hindering the treatment process.

These issues become barriers in successful treatment experiences for the LGBTQ individual seeking those services.

An inclusive and accepting program like Pride Institute, which addresses the unique treatment needs of the LGBTQ community, allows patients to transcend the inauthenticity promoted by cultural oppression through the affirming acceptance of others. Individuals don’t deal with their addiction and mental health issues in a vacuum, instead these disorders are addressed within the context of the whole person. As a result, recovery doesn’t just mean living substance-free, it means living more integrated and expressive lives.