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Sexual minority youth need specialized treatment from therapists
Date:6/18/2013

President Obama officially declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. However, despite advances in civil rights, sexual minority youth are still at greater risk for suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. A University of Missouri psychology graduate student recently published recommendation to improve psychologists' treatment of sexual minority youth, which could help improve psychological functioning and reduce depression and suicide rates.

"Psychologists sometimes face a particular dilemma when treating sexual minority youth, many of whom are still in the process of developing their sexual identity," said Alex Dopp, doctoral student in psychological sciences in MU's College of Arts and Science. "Serious mental strain can result if a core piece of a young person's emerging identity is unacceptable to his or her family. Parents may observe this anguish and want to know what is troubling their children. However, when therapists share that information with parents, they may reveal a youth's sexual identity, which may exacerbate the problem."

For example, parents may bring a depressed and suicidal adolescent in for therapy, Dopp explained. The youth may then confide in the psychologist that they are suicidal because they fear their family won't accept their identity as a sexual minority. The therapist faces an ethical dilemma: on the one hand, bringing the youth and parents closer together is critical to the youth's adjustment, but on the other hand, opening up to the parents could exacerbate the youth's suffering and suicide risk (if revealing their sexual minority status leads to increased conflict in the home, parental rejection, etc.).

"There is no single recommendation for what the psychologist should do in this situation," said Dopp. "Instead a therapist must be well prepared and educated in the best ways to treat sexual minority youth." The neces
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Contact: Tim Wall
walltj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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