Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals face unique mental health challenges. This can include dealing with past and present discrimination and stigma, navigating health care systems, and ‘coming out’ across the lifespan. These challenges can contribute to depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health concerns for LGBT people.
The Program for the Study of LGBT Health coordinates with Columbia Psychiatry, Columbia Nursing, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and community resources to offer primary care and mental health services for LGBT children, adolescents, adults and families. Specialized services are offered for older adults and people living with HIV.
The Program’s providers are experts in the field of LGBT mental health and primary care. Our providers include faculty who also serve as researchers, educators and policy advocates in the field of gender and sexuality. As part of the program’s on-going efforts to offer state of the art clinical care, providers routinely collaborate with research and policy efforts to provide effective and innovative services for the LGBT community.
For a list of provider-specific clinical specialties, please see the profiles of the LGBT Program’s Clinicians here.
Evaluation and Consultation
Providers are available to provide psychological evaluation and assessment of children, adolescents and adults. A consultation typically involves two or three meetings over the course of several weeks. A consultation and evaluation includes a comprehensive review of the stresses facing the individual or family and the ways in which LGBT-affirmative medical or mental health services can help to address these stressors. For individuals and families who are currently working with a mental health professional, this can include collaboration with that provider to help address specific gender and sexuality concerns. For individuals and families who are not currently working with a mental health professional, the consultation will include a discussion of treatment options if necessary.
Transgender and Genderqueer specific services
The LGBT program offers specific evaluation and consultation services for transgender and genderqueer people considering transitioning from their assigned sex to their desired gender presentation This evaluation and consultation can include a discussion of the individual’s goals and expectations for their transition, developing and implementing a plan for transition, and collaborating with other medical providers to provide hormone therapy and surgery.
Individual psychotherapy is one treatment option offered through the LGBT Program. Individual psychotherapy involves working with a psychotherapist to better understand the specific challenges facing the individual and develop new ways of adapting to these challenges. The specific treatment plan, including the goals of psychotherapy, is developed in collaboration between provider and client. Individual psychotherapy sessions are most often weekly, although meetings may be more or less frequent depending on the needs of the individual or family. Psychotherapy is effective for a wide range of concerns, including anxiety and depression, adapting to a major change in life (such as ‘coming out’ as LGBT, graduating, or retiring), and living with a major medical condition (such as HIV).
Family and Couples Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is also available for couples and families. Similar to individual psychotherapy, couples/family psychotherapy focuses on helping partners and family members to gain insight and develop new ways of expressing themselves and meeting challenges in their relationships with each other. Couples/family psychotherapy is particularly effective in helping the relationship or family adapt to new situations as a whole. Couples and families often seek out treatment to address a family member’s ‘coming out’ or transitioning, adopting or having children, or to address intimacy and sexuality concerns between partners.
Group psychotherapy is another treatment option. Group psychotherapy involves meeting with a provider and other individuals who are working to address similar challenges and stressors. Group psychotherapy can be particularly effective for individuals looking to develop the ability to make connections and form relationships with others in a safe and supportive environment.
The LGBT Program offers a number of group options; please contact us for more information about what groups are currently running. Our current groups include:
LGBTQ Young Adult Group (for people 18-25 years old) – This group focuses on helping participants to address the specific challenges and opportunities that come with being a young adult. This can include the ‘coming out’ process, dealing with stigma and discrimination, adjusting to college/university/the workplace, living independently, and making connections in the LGBTQ community. The group format allows participants to connect with other LGBTQ young adults to address these challenges in a collaborative way.
For many people, medication can be an important tool in addressing psychological distress. During the initial consultation, medication options can be discussed.