Why do you specialize in treating the LGBTQ community?
I've been an out and proud gay man most of my adult life, and purposefully began working with the LGBTQ community as an intern therapist decades ago. From the time I was a teenager, I was an activist for civil, human, women's rights, peace and social justice issues, and then LGBTQ and AIDS/HIV rights. Currently, about 65% of my practice is made up of gay men and transgendered individuals, and typically anywhere from half to two thirds of my practice is peopled by LGBTQ individuals and couples. I carry the scars, like muscle memory, of growing up as a gay boy to man, in a straight, white, male-dominated society hostile to me in all ways. These "scars" are now part of my personal make-up, my strength and character and my professional tool kit, enabling me to better assist LGBTQ clients no matter what their "presenting problems" may be. Even in this far more progressive day, which is so much less damaging to us than in past times, we LGBTQ persons still face systemic prejudice, exclusion, everyday assumptions, insults and violative behavior from the dominant society which tears at the very fabric of who we are as people. We have far higher rates of depression, suicide, anxiety, substance use, family and couples conflict and other concurrent disorders than the "general population." I understand how important, sometimes necessary, it can be to sit across from someone with shared, personal experience. There is nothing more vital in all therapy relationships than to feel safe, heard and understood by your therapist. We who are LGBTQ identified are not defined by our orientation but are inextricably affected by who we are and how we interact within the larger, dominant culture. As a gay man and a therapist, I know how isolating and challenging a minority identification can be. I also know, conversely, how enormously valuable it can be to work with a therapist that you feel has walked in your shoes, and enables you to feel more safe, trusting and nurtured.
Zachary Newman, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist