This introductory guide is designed to help counselors and psychotherapists understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identification and other labels and categories of sexuality and sexual practice.
This guide also gives some pointers on essential considerations for safe, effective and ethical practice when working with clients from these groups.
Many clients will come to therapy having already resolved pressing issues around gender identity or sexual orientation and will not wish to be treated any differently from any other client. And some clients will present with key issues around their sexuality and gender identity, or with issues connected to being of a gender or sexuality minority.
Lack of experience or training in different gender and sexual diversities (GSD) may leave a psychotherapist or counselor feeling inhibited in discussing such issues with a client. There can be embarrassment or fear of exposure regarding the therapist’s own assumptions and gaps in knowledge.
Depending on when and where the therapist trained, there may be significant omissions or even errors in their understanding of gender and sexual diversities that require attention and updating. Significant harm may be caused by the therapist’s less than ethical or competent practice with people from these diversities.
The information below covers basics of vocabulary to enable thought and discussion towards better familiarity and understanding. It cannot cover all the gender and sexual diversities in depth, but can serve as a step towards improved support of the needs of these diverse client groups. Arguably what all these groups have in common is a hypervigilance against being pathologised.