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The American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1973 when it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the universal diagnostic tool for mental illnesses. More than 40 years later, homosexuality is a normal variation of human expression, but bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community is still rampant.

The stigma that still exists surrounding homosexuality often finds its way into substance abuse treatment, which can make it difficult for people who identify as LGBTQ+ to get the help they need to recover from an addiction.

Silvermist is proud to offer LGBTQ+ friendly addiction treatment in Pennsylvania. We employ a personalized approach that takes into account each individual’s unique history, situation and needs.

If you would like to learn more about our drug and alcohol abuse and addiction recovery center, please feel free to reach out to us at (724) 268-4858. We have people available 24/7 to take your call.

Identifying LGBTQ+ Friendly Addiction Treatment

LGBTQ+ friendly treatment involves providers who are trained in working with this population. This type of program will address the inclusion of LGBTQ+ issues in its policies and procedures, program design, training and advertising. Many LGBTQ+ friendly programs provide ongoing training to help providers better understand LGBTQ+ issues and how to best serve this community. An LGBTQ+ friendly program will help ensure clients feel safe and comfortable in treatment, as well as addressing a range of issues common among the LGBTQ+ population.

Issues Faced & How LGBTQ+ Friendly Treatment Helps with Addiction Recovery

A treatment program that operates under the assumption that every individual is heterosexual won’t effectively address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people, who may be afraid to reveal their sexual orientation for fear of bias, discrimination and outright contempt. An LGBTQ+ friendly treatment program will ensure LGBTQ+ clients feel safe expressing themselves with honesty and openness. It will be equipped to effectively address a range of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community, including the following issues.

Mental Health Issues

Sexual minorities with substance use disorders are more likely than heterosexuals with SUDs to have a co-occurring mental illness, according to NIDA. Lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women are more likely than heterosexuals to report mental distress and depression, and transgender children and adolescents have higher rates of depression, suicide, self-harm and eating disorders than their non-transgender counterparts.

Because some of the issues that may lead to mental illnesses, like depression and eating disorders, are unique to the LGBTQ+ community, an LGBTQ+ friendly treatment program will be better equipped to address and get to the bottom of co-occurring disorders.

LGBTQ+ Stigma

The stigma against the LGBTQ+ community is expressed as heterosexism and homophobia. Heterosexism ignores, denies and denigrates non-heterosexual forms of affection and expression. Homophobia is an irrational fear of or aversion to LGBTQ+ people or their behaviors. Heterosexism and homophobia in a treatment setting make it difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to reveal their sexual orientation in treatment, which, in turn, makes it hard for them to be open and honest-essential traits in treatment.

SAMHSA stresses that heterosexism and homophobia in treatment may:

  • Increase shame in LGBTQ+ individuals, whose shame may already be negatively affecting their lives, including being at the core of their substances abuse

  • Lead to self-blame for their victimization

  • Intensify a negative self-concept that results from negative messages about homosexuality

  • Increase feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and despair and create a victim mentality

  • Inhibit emotional development and growth


Trauma is a major factor for substance abuse, and it’s a common underlying cause of addiction. According to an article published in the journal Traumatology, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be targets of interpersonal violence than their heterosexual counterparts, and they’re more likely to be abused by their families of origin. LGBTQ+ adolescents are bullied by peers more frequently than heterosexual youth, and LGBTQ+ individuals account for 40 percent of homeless youth, which increases the risk of exposure to sexual trauma and violence.

Working through trauma is an important focus in treatment, and an LGBTQ+ friendly treatment program will likely offer trauma-informed treatment in order to address the traumas that are common in and unique to the LGBTQ+ community.


Feelings of shame can emerge at an early age, especially if a person is bullied, discriminated against,= and treated like a pariah by family members and others in the community. Shame is a powerful trigger for substance abuse as a way to cope with the negative emotions and low self-esteem shame brings with it. Working through these feelings requires opening up about one’s sexuality and coming to healthy terms with it.

Family Problems

Many LGBTQ+ individuals have been disowned by family members and may have suffered physical or emotional abuse due to their sexual orientation. Many young people run away from home and live on the streets when faced with an unsupportive or even dangerous home life.

Addressing family dysfunction is an important part of treatment, and many LGBTQ+ clients have family issues that have profoundly affected their lives. One family issue that most outside of the LGBTQ+ community don’t experience is disownment. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, being disowned by the family they grew up with can lead to unhealthy thought and behavior patterns as a way of coping with the emotional devastation it causes. These and other LGBTQ+ specific family issues should be addressed in an LGBTQ+ friendly treatment program.

Family Dynamics

Family therapy in an LGBTQ+ focused program may look very different from family therapy in traditional treatment. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, the family that’s central in their lives may be their family of choice rather than their family of origin. A family therapist in an LGBTQ+ friendly program will have an understanding of LGBTQ+ specific family issues and dynamics and will be knowledgeable, comfortable and effective in counseling same-sex couples and other by-choice family members.

Spiritual Issues

Because of the segments of society that loudly proclaim the LGBTQ+ community “ungodly” and “sinners,” LGBTQ+ individuals may have spiritual issues stemming from being shunned by their church or family members and other negative sentiments shared by members of religious communities. LGBTQ+ friendly treatment can help these individuals find peace and validation within their spiritual lives.


The American LGBTQ+ population isn’t provided with the same federal and state protections as other groups, including people recovering from substance abuse. It’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ individuals to experience workplace or housing discrimination, which can lead to feelings of despair, helplessness and low self-esteem. The legal system may also discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in custody cases. An LGBTQ+ friendly treatment program will be very sensitive to the effects of discrimination as well as the possibility that discrimination might occur if an individual were to widely disclose his or her sexual orientation.

Coming Out

While some people in treatment may be fully out, others may be in the process of coming out or may not have come out at all due to being uncomfortable with their sexual identity or afraid of others’ reactions. Providers in an LGBTQ+ friendly program will understand the important impacts of coming out—or not coming out—and know how to counsel LGBTQ+ individuals regardless of what coming-out phase they’re in.

A Life of Healing in Recovery from Addiction

LGBTQ+ friendly addiction treatment can make an enormous difference in your life and in the way you recover from a substance use disorder. It offers support, validation and LGBTQ+ focused therapies that can help you heal from old and new wounds and move forward with clarity, pride, and the motivation and resolve you need to recover from an addiction once and for all. Treatment works, and it can work for you.