by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC
Art therapy continues to prove itself as being an incredibly valuable modality when working with individuals across the lifespan and across a spectrum of various categories of identity. When considering specific populations of people, including the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to recognize particular stressors and stigmatized experiences that individuals may encounter at different points in their lives. Often individuals seeking therapy related to their sexual or romantic orientations or gender identities may struggle with experiences of discrimination, with the process of coming out to loved ones and family members and/or with identifying their authentic needs outside of social pressures and internalized expectations.
Art therapy provides a unique and supportive approach that promotes creative self-expression in a safe format. Having worked with a variety of populations and age groups, I have found that working with art materials initially inspires self-reflection on values and significant aspects of one’s life. If an individual is contemplating coming out or revealing a part of themselves to a trusted individual or group of individuals in their lives, this will often play a role in the art as well.
One art directive that parallels the process of coming out is the doorway directive. Often when creating doorways, individuals may take the opportunity to experiment with the idea of revealing certain personal information or contemplating this revelation by containing the information behind the symbolic doorway. In this way, the individual continues to remain in control of the information, as one can determine whether or not the door is opened, who can see or witness the information and how that information is expressed (words, images or other symbols). The art process in this way enables us to experiment and consider non-verbal and visual acts of self-expression, which otherwise may be overwhelming or anxiety-provoking to us. As an individual navigates the coming out process, they are making decisions as to whether or not to disclose information regarding their romantic or sexual orientation or gender identity and at what timing.
I have also encountered many individuals who have taken time in the art therapy room to create pride flags as a way to generate dialogue with peers and their family members at home. Often the rich discussions that stem from the artwork create greater bonds and avenues for understanding and empathy.
It is important for individuals within the LGBTQ+ community to have a safe space to discuss their experiences with stigma and discrimination as well as share points of hope and relief in the process of becoming and accepting one’s true self. The art therapy process lends itself to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community to be seen, heard, and accepted by promoting courageous risk-taking, self-reflection, emotion identification and validation.
Be sure to visit our main website for more on how we serve the LGBTQ+ communities: https://holistichealthcounselingcenter.com/lgbtq-issues/