Working with clients who are pregnant requires the same attention, care, and empathy as any other client. It is important to recognize that a pregnant client may have different issues and concerns than what I may be generally used to. Some of what she is dealing with in her life may be temporary, especially because of physiological changes in her body that may even be causing her to feel certain ways. Since I have never been pregnant before, I would want to ensure that the client was comfortable talking to me and I may even broach this consideration if I thought it to be an issue during sessions. I would encourage her to bring up anything she wants to related to her pregnancy or happenings in her personal life that revolve around it. I would be careful not to stereotypes or make assumptions about relationships in her life unless I am aware of them, such as with the baby’s father. As a counselor, issues would definitely come up for me if the client was using substances while pregnant. This is a serious issue because it could cause major damage to the child and potentially destroy aspects of his or her life. In some cases, it would even be unethical not to report because of the harm it could cause, and this would be something I would explain to the client. With confidentiality, it is always my responsibility to explain what I would be required to report, and one of those circumstances would be when the client could cause harm to another person. In this case, it would be my role to protect the life of the victim, which would be the baby. I would attempt to educate the client on the impacts substance usage could have on the baby and why it is so risky to continue with using. I would help her devise and implement a plan for her life that will allow her to make steps to taking care of herself and the baby, and to protect both of them as well. However, if she was drinking heavily or using substances and continued to do so, I would indeed report it and most likely make her aware of this need.
Advocating for clients and challenging biases means that counselors make it their role and responsibilities to stand up for the needs of the client and provide support and resources when appropriate and necessary. Many times this involves counselors going out of their way to do what is best for the client, and therefore often involves extra effort. Counselors are agents of social change and must not forget this in their work because they are often times the only people who can listen and understand enough of what the client needs to ensure that those needs are met. Advocacy can occur within systems and organizations, or within individuals and families. For me, taking on this role is a lot of responsibility and it can be scary but it is also something I know I want to do, because often times it is one of the only things we can do to help other people. Change is not only about the individual but often times involves much more than that, and requires reaching out to others in order to be made efficient. This is a role I expected to take as a counselor because I have seen it done for me personally. When I was in a stressful and potentially harmful situation that was out of my control, the counselor I went to called in the people involved that had more control over the situation and stood up for my rights, expressing that circumstances needed to change and why this was important. This brought the issue to the attention of the people involved, who had previously thought it was just something that I had kind of been complaining about and did not realize the seriousness of it. It took the counselor I was seeing to advocate for me and show others in an additional and stronger voice that what was going on was not okay. Since then, I have been willing to take on the same role, because I saw first hand the importance of it and how much can be accomplished with an advocate who is standing up for someone else’s needs. That does not mean that advocating for others will always be easy, or will always be along terms that I necessarily agree with. There will be people who will not listen to me as a counselor, people who do not want to hear what I have to say, people who do not agree, and people who just do not care. I expect to work in difficult cases, particularly with people who are a lot different from me and have very different backgrounds. For example, I have been in situations where people do not want to hear what I have to say, simply because I am a white, female, young student, who also happens to be Jewish. These traits together, especially on the surface, do not make my voice seem powerful. However, it is important for me to play my part and try anyway, even if I do not receive the intended outcome, and then move forward and take other actions from there. I must use the efforts I have to speak my mind and stand up for my clients, even with the possibility that other people might not accept what I have to say. Everyone has basic human rights to be who they are and live in the ways they want to live, as long as they are not harming others. I believe it is my job as a professional counselor to help out in every way that I can when it is appropriate. This goes along with my personal values. I feel the need to help unless I am unable to help any further.
Some websites I found that can be used for information regarding gender and LGBT issues in addictions counseling:
Pride Institute recognizes that members of the LGBT community are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than members of the general population. It provides explanations in various areas for why this is and what this organization is about, and even a self-assessment for individuals to determine their own needs. Additionally, it includes abundant information on available programs, supports, health professionals, and employers. The site itself includes helpful links and photos to give users a sense of what they can experience. This is an excellent service for those seeking help with their addictions in the LGBT community. It is a reminder that no one has to be alone and resources are available to those who are struggling.
This is also a similar website that provides information about Lionrock’s recovery program for those struggling with addictions in the LGBT community. A great feature of this website is real quotes from recovering patients at Lionrock who talk about how the program has helped them. The site includes explanations on individualized treatment, convenient schedules, cultural competence, and how to be resourceful online with their program, specifically through live video counseling. This provides a great opportunity for people to get better, often times without even having to leave their computer, but also encourages them to discover what will be helpful to them.
Colors LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services provides free psychotherapeutic services to young individuals. Counselors are trained in various areas, one of which includes Affirmative Addictions Treatment. However, they become competent in various dimensions, all revolving around working with LGBTQ youth. This gives young people who are a part of this community the opportunity to be understood on all kinds of levels, as they surely have many different needs, concerns, and issues they are dealing with throughout their lives. With the chance to be understood on various levels, they will be more likely to combat issues such as addiction that affect their lives. They have counselors who become competent in working with them overall rather than just in one area, so they can get to know them as young and developing people and not just as addicts within a specific population.
This is a basic guideline by the American Psychological Association that psychologists as well as counselors should refer to when working with members of the LGBT community. It addresses attitudes towards members of this community and about homosexuality and bisexuality, relationships and families, issues of diversity, economic and workplace issues, education and training, research, and references. While clients definitely need resources that they can turn to when seeking help, it is also very important for counselors to have sources like this one to refer to in order to provide them assistance with understanding various issues within counseling, and to be able to look back on the guidelines when they need to throughout their work. Although a document of guidelines cannot provide as much information as an understanding from first hand experience and getting to know individuals and stories on a personal level, this is a start and helpful in counselor competence for working with LGBT people in addictions counseling.