EMDR and the issues of gay clients


EMDR is an effective therapeutic method for working with the emotional issues of gay clients. The first portion of this workshop will examine the "pubic" and "relationship" definitions of homosexuality. Being gay is much more than how people express themselves sexually. A brief historical and cultural kamework for understanding the emotional issues of lesbian I gay persons will be presented. There will be a review of the psychological theories and the research about the origins of homosexuality. The second portion of the workshop will focus on the psychological path of persons recognizing they are gay. The changes in the "pre-stonewall' and "post-stonewall" experience will be highlighted. This review of psychological experience will look at the points where EMDR therapists can be sensitive to the presence of emotional issues related to being gay. Feeling "different" is often a precursor to recognizing that one is gay. It is impossible to grow up in our culture without internalization of negative attitudes about gay people. When an individual recognizes (s)he is lesbian or gay, this negative learning now applies to one's self. EMDR is effective in resolving this "internalized homophobia." "Coming out" to one's self is a shock because, "I am no longer the person I believed myself to be." EMDR helps clients see gayness, not as an event happening in Me at this moment, but as something with a history related to earlier life experiences and feelings. This perception of continuity reduces the sense of crisis around being homosexual. As internalized homophobia is resolved, acceptance and valuing of self increases. Using the EMDR "future template" protocol assists people in preparing to "come out" to family, fiiends, employers, etc. Gay activists suggests that lesbian/gay persons need to be "out" in all situations. EMDR can help people understand why they want to come out to various people in various situations. It assists in idenhfxation of what people want as the result of "coming out." EMDR is effective in workmg with the myths about homosexuality; the cultural homophobia. Among the myths to be focused are: gay men are promiscuous, being gay is immoral, gay sexual expression is perversion, gay relationships don't last, lesbian/gay persons recruit young people, etc. The third portion of this workshop will focus on issues of HIV disease. There will be a brief epidemiological presentation and focus on the medical and psychological issues of persons with HIV disease. Application of EMDR at "crisis points" of HIV disease will be presented: (1) the worried well, a diminishing population as the aids epidmc continues, (2) the time of HIV+ diagnosis when the potential for suicide is highest, (3) the time of the first AIDS defining illness, (4) response to declining health and approaching death, and (5) issues of "meaning" as life moves toward death. EMDR's application in grief and multiple loss will be presented. Our culture's attitude that grief is something to "be resolved" and "get over" is a mistake. Grief is an ongoing process, especially when people are dealing with multiple losses of partners, fiends, etc. EMDR is effective in reducing the pain around loss so that the grief process can proceed more comfortably. The workshop will end with discussion of characteristics which therapists need to evaluate in relation to the decision to work or not work with gay and gay HIV infected clients. Working with gay men leads to working with clients with HIV disease. Therapists need to be clear about their boundaries and comfort in dealing with home and hospital visits, touching people who have AIDS, being present at the death of a client, and other issues that arise in HIVIAIDS care. The rewards of working with this population and the life changes it may make for the therapist will also be highlighted.






Donald L. Weston

Original Work Citation

Weston, D. L. (1995, June). EMDR and the issues of gay clients. Presentation at the EMDR Network Conference, Santa Monica, CA



“EMDR and the issues of gay clients,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 24, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/15938.

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