Leaping Over The Gap: Creating Healing Community For LGBTQIA+ Individuals In Recovery
We welcome blog posts by guest authors who work in the fields of mental health and addiction treatment and who promote person-centered, progressive, and individualized approaches to the treatment of mental health and addiction issues.
Meet Today's Guest Author: Alicja Majer, MSW Therapist Intern, BSW, CRRA
Alicja is Director of Operations at Inspire Recovery in Florida. She works in the addiction and mental health care industry within the LGBTQIA+ population. Alicja’s is focused on LGBTQIA+ advocacy, addiction recovery, LGBTQIA+ rights, and education. She also serves as a board member on TranspireHELP (non for-profit dedicated to raise funds for the LGBTQIA+ community in recovery).
Alicja originated from a background of studies in art and design which created an individual passion for authenticity in recovery and helping each individual take a mindful and creative approach to living. She is currently in pursuit of becoming a licensed clinical social worker and researcher, focusing not only on the individual but the much-needed macro community work within the LGBTQIA+ population. Alicja is a co-founder of Rise2Love a brand that supports the LGBTQIA+ community and all people, empowering all to rise 2 love ALL beings.
Aren’t all behavioral health facilities supposed to be healing communities for vulnerable populations?
Depends who is defining. Collectively overlooking the needs of an individual in their healing journey in terms of recovery from anything or everything, an unavoidable gap is staring us boldly in the eyes. Yes, treatment may be necessary weather from substance abuse, mental health, trauma, shame, guilt, neither or all. Yet, treatment in the context of a secluded, comfortable, short term, and site specific atmosphere can only force our current and later generations to take a leap of faith over the crack with indefinite hopes of landing alive on the other side where members of society do more than cease to exist. Some may leap over and land without a graze, but I can reassure you that these individuals might have had some advantage in the shape of privilege defined by familiar support, acceptance, equity, or simply the lay of the land.
How do we define a healing community?
First of all let’s eliminate the gap, the chasm of misguidance that lays on the path to healing for many individuals. More specifically, individuals who show up marginalized by societal norms, burdened by internalized oppression, and traumatized by their individual existence in the world that lacks acceptance. Healing communities break down the walls of site specific treatment and centralized affirmation, continuing the healing throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, towns, and counties, spinning a web rather than a linear "if-this-then-that" statistical outcome.
But who does it take to bulldoze the walls?
You, me, them, him, her; all of the above. And let’s not forget a common mission and vision. Look beyond labels of the client or patient, therapist, case manager and discharge planner. Look beyond and see the doctor down the street, the neighbors around the block, the owner of that local pizza joint, the mom, the cousins, the chosen family, the mailman, and perhaps a few local town representatives. That may sound quite silly, but the truth is in the experience; the existential link between all people involved is more than a common mission. To heal the individual, in addition by linking the community, they too heal in tandem.
How did we regain a sense of community within our organization?
It started with some blood, sweat, and perhaps a few tears. In all seriousness, it took an encompassing amount of wholeheartedness and collaboration from within Inspire Recovery, with it’s never dying passion of promoting healing for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex (LGBTQI+)* community in recovery from co-occurring disorders.
Without jumping into great detail, the essence of a successful healing community lies in building on love, unity, and uttermost acceptance. Creating an outcome dependent on advocacy of a population ridden with unsupportive families, dehumanizing legislature, limited resources, and history of trauma promoted by societal norms. This population is, as a result, left with coping mechanisms limited to numbing with substances of all kinds. Going beyond our healing walls composed of trauma informed care, relying on interlaced collaboration of our clients, clinical staff, psychiatrist, medical care, and our support team, we incorporated a living environment bound by its surrounding community.
How did we face the challenges?
Through educating and growing all of our staff, relying on communication flow to be reciprocal between client and staff, and most importantly by eliminating the power differentials that often exist when working with vulnerable populations. From then, educating the members of our surrounding communities that could coexist and collaborate with our model, since we know we could not do it alone.
The challenge of breaking the societal norms of what treatment is and should be in the binary terms of male and female has been the most rewarding. Creating allies within the community who would too consider aligning with breaking down gender norms, and understanding the gender spectrum of the community who thrives on authenticity, affirmation, love and acceptance.
What's the difference?
The allied bond created between, staff, client, and community members within the LGBTQI+ population creates a pathway to restructuring what it means to have a sense of belonging and establishing relationships that continue to grow beyond the termination of treatment. The bonds are created with local community members, such as doctors, advocates, community centers, AA clubhouses, places of employment, and schools. These bonds outlive the life of the short term solution to recovery.
We continue to break the structural norms of treatment by leaving the fear of scrutiny behind and embark on a lifelong learning experience of what it truly means to establish a long term healing community. One that does not require leaping over a gap in order to become empowered, authentic, and proud to be a part of something greater than was ever imagined.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex (LGBTQI+) is an expansive acronym. The LGBTQI+ letters do not represent the whole community as a whole, as gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation are represented across a wide spectrum.
For more information or resources on supporting an LGBTQI+ person struggling with addiction or mental health feel free to e-mail email@example.com.
Inspire Recovery is specifically dedicated to serving the LGBTQI+ community with co-occurring disorders on a mission to create a healing clinical community to support the challenges faced by LGBTQI+ individuals with needs unmet by gender-specific, heteronormative treatment facilities.