The LGBTQIA+ Community & Substance Abuse - Fostering inclusivity, positivity, and acceptance for all

by Liv Houser, MA (she/her)

My name is Liv Houser, MA (she/her), and I’m a therapist at ETHOS Treatment, LLC. I recently developed and launched an LGBTQIA+ outpatient group with the anticipation of turning the group into a specific LGBTQIA+ IOP track. We’ve seen firsthand a distinct need for this specified level of care, especially during times of vulnerability in early recovery, and are proud of the safety and authenticity this group provides. I myself identify as a lesbian and have been in long term recovery for over 6 years. During my early recovery process I strived to look in the mirror and fully accept myself, but I was full of residual fear of losing those in my life because of my identity and who I loved. Today my identity is ever evolving and I rely heavily on the support from my sober fellows who are also in the LGBTQIA+ community.

In the past, LGBTQIA+ clients often commented that one of the biggest struggles they face during early recovery is the constant worry of how much information about themselves they are disclosing in a group setting. Our LGBTQIA+ group incorporates a safe space, allowing members to feel comfortable and perpetually supported. The community itself is diverse, and oftentimes members have spent years of their lives avoiding authentic self-expression, whether that be outward appearance, sexuality, or gender identity. The LGBTQIA+ group allows for discovery of self, inclusive language, constant respect, and freedom to be authentic.

So what does it mean to be authentically yourself? This is far from an easy question to answer. The stigmas of society and harsh criticisms can lead to a strong desire to fit in and conform to societal standards. Take FOMO (fear of missing out) for example: this fear comes up during every therapy group I run - “I want to fit in”, “I want to be liked”, “I want to feel accepted”. If one identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, they are already placed in a minority population. Questions such as “What if I’m judged, bullied, hurt, or disrespected?” are spoken daily. There is not just a fear of being accepted, but sometimes, given individual circumstances, there can be an actual fear of personal safety.

Our program allows for group connectedness on a deeper level. Members are encouraged to work on their recovery from substance use while incorporating aspects of their LGBTQIA+ identity as needed and on an individual basis. Clients are never pushed to disclose more than they are comfortable with, and both therapist and group members accept each other for where they are in their personal process. If you have any questions about our group, our program, or anything related to finding your authentic self while recovering from substance use, please reach out. We’re here, and we’d love to help any way we can.