The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has released a new “practice parameter” for supporting children and adolescents who may be LGBT or gender-nonconforming. What follows is a list of principles designed to help mental health professionals maximize health outcomes for LGBT youth by discussing and affirming their identities:
- A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation should include an age-appropriate assessment of psychosexual development for all youths.
- The need for confidentiality in the clinical alliance is a special consideration in the assessment of sexual and gender minority youth.
- Family dynamics pertinent to sexual orientation, gender nonconformity, and gender identity should be explored in the context of the cultural values of the youth, family and community
- Clinicians should inquire about circumstances commonly encountered by youth with sexual and gender minority status that confer increased psychiatric risk.
- Clinicians should aim to foster healthy psychosexual development in sexual and gender minority youth and protect the individual’s full capacity for integrated identity formation and adaptive functioning.
- Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful.
- Clinicians should be aware of current evidence on the natural course of gender discordance and associated psychopathology in children and adolescents in choosing the treatment goals and modality.
- Clinicians should be prepared to consult and act as a liaison with schools, community agencies, and other health care providers, advocating for the unique needs of sexual and gender minority youth and their families.
- Mental health professionals should be aware of community and professional resources relevant to sexual and gender minority youth.
AACAP’s principles reflect the trove of research demonstrating that LGBT people are happier and healthier when their identities are affirmed. Given the high rates of bullying and family rejection young people often experience, it’s particularly keen that child psychiatrists translate this information into sensitive, attuned counseling responses.