The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

gay man rainbow paint couch therapist

In 1965, TIME magazine published an article titled “Homosexuals Can Be Cured.” The article focused on the “triumphant” results of group therapy work led by psychiatrist Samuel Hadden, who was also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School at the time. Hadden had been leading long-term (four to eight year) therapy sessions for men who identified as homosexual in the hopes of “curing” them of their sexual “perversions.”

TIME’s article celebrated Hadden’s ability to help men work through their “symptoms” of “illness”—whether that was wearing inappropriately feminine clothing or being sexually interested in men instead of women. Hadden was only one of many esteemed psychiatrists and psychologists to consider — and treat — homosexuality as a sickness during the 1960s. In fact, homosexuality was not removed from the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” [DSM] until 1973.

The pathologizing of homosexuality was not, however, contextually specific to 20th century America. Many of the earliest writings condemning homosexual acts as “unnatural” caught on in 12th century Europe, when religious leaders like Saint Thomas Aquinas denounced homosexuality as a sin in their early writings. Popular disdain against homosexuality, began in the realm of religion, but it quickly moved into the legal arena in centuries to come. Continue reading The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

sad woman sitting on floor

April 24, 2017 was GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an annual campaign that brings awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. To participate in this campaign, we decided to share the stories (anonymously) of Talkspace clients who faced anti-LGBTQ bullying and used therapy to heal.

How Childhood Bullying Has Lasting Effects

When people face anti-LGBTQ bullying — or any other form of bullying — during their youth it can affect them for the rest of their lives. One of our therapists worked with a client who was bullied in school because he was gay. His peers also taunted and teased him because he was quiet and shy. Rather than supporting him and being compassionate, his parents told him to “toughen up.”

This had profound effects on the course of the client’s life. Now in his 40s, the client has trouble making friends and believing he is likeable. He finds it hard to believe that anyone would want to spend time with him. He often takes neutral behaviors personally or perceives them as punitive. His world feels small and he struggles with the daily pain of his loneliness. Continue reading The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

gay man in corner abused

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m lying awake listening to the sound of my boyfriend’s light snoring. The box fan is humming softly in the corner. Cool night air blows through the window.

Although I’m happy, I’m also torn. In the dark I debate whether the fan is making enough noise to keep him asleep if I get up to go put away the clean dishes. Half of me is kicking myself for forgetting to do so. The other half is wondering if it’s a good opportunity to also clean the bathroom overnight as a surprise.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have found a good guy. I wonder whether this is business as usual for domestic violence survivors everywhere. I tell myself I’m most likely not as alone and abnormal as I feel. I force myself to fall asleep.

This all sounds weird, but these little debates play out in my head all day, every day. When I shop, I try to find little gifts for him to keep him happy, like a new pair of shoes. Every time I make it home before he does, I try to use those spare moments to clean something. Getting into his car also means clearing out a few bits of trash as I exit. I always make sure he has everything he needs before he leaves for work and his alarm is set before we go to bed.

Sometimes scars make you sweet. Continue reading How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Which One Are You Having?

anxiety vs. panic attack blue red image

Knowing the difference between an anxiety attack vs. panic attack is more than an issue of semantics. It can shape the course of your mental health. If you don’t know which one you are having, it will be difficult to find the appropriate treatment or develop useful coping skills. You might waste time addressing the wrong issues.

By understanding the issue of anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks, you can more efficiently address your mental health and the issues behind the attacks. It starts with understanding the more confusing of the two, anxiety attacks.

What Are Anxiety Attacks? – Clinical Terms vs. Colloquial Terms

“Anxiety attack” is not an official clinical term. The latest edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” [DSM-5], a book the vast majority of mental health professionals abide by, does not list it (we’ll be sure to update this article if that fact changes during the next release of the DSM). Continue reading Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Which One Are You Having?

14 Movies About Depression That Perfectly Capture the Experience

Anomalisa movie poster

More than 300 million people have depression, and each person has a unique story. It’s a mental health condition that manifests in a myriad of ways. It can make people feel lonely, detached, down or unmotivated, like there’s no point to anything. It can also spur them to act irrationally or destructively. We need movies about depression — among other works of art — to help us understand, humanize and sympathize with the many ways people experience depression.

If you’re interested in watching a movie featuring depression, it can be difficult to know where to start. There are hundreds of movies about depression, and thousands with strong themes of depression.

Rather than starting a subjective conversation about which movies are “best” in terms of the filmmaking (good writing, interesting characters, solid plot, etc.), we wanted to learn which ones would best enlighten you on the experience of depression. If you live with depression, you might identify with one or more of the characters in these films or they might provide your family and friends some insight into what you’re struggling with. Continue reading 14 Movies About Depression That Perfectly Capture the Experience

Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

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Imagine you have just had a car accident on the way home from work. Would you consider this a traumatic experience? What about if you left a country with oppressive government to find asylum in a safer country? Would you consider that traumatic?

There are different kinds of trauma you may experience. In the past, trauma meant experiencing events such as torture or abuse. But mental health professionals have come to see trauma as being more varied. How will you know if you or someone you love is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic stress? Clarification begins first with the definition of trauma.

The International Society for Trauma Stress Studies defines trauma as a set of mild to severe reactions to, “shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity.” Continue reading Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

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Approximately one in five children experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lives.

I once worked with a young man (whom I will refer to here as James) who was in his early 20s and had been plagued by difficulties at both work and his personal life. About two years prior to our first meeting, he left school due to his inability to keep up with the schoolwork and the stress that it caused him. James told me he always felt as if he were playing “catch up.”

Throughout our time together in therapy James came to recognize he had been living with untreated ADHD. He spent years internalizing negative messages from his teachers and family members about his behavior and difficulty concentrating. They labeled him as “bad,” and he believed it. Continue reading Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

Ask Anna: Can I Support My Depressed BF Without Sabotaging Myself?

Anna Akbari advice column

Talkspace is pleased to introduce Ask Anna, a new Question & Answer column featuring Anna Akbari, sociologist and author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness.” Send your mental health questions for Anna to [email protected].

Hi Anna,

When I first started dating my boyfriend, he was really ambitious, was a leader at his work, and was really excited about what he was doing. I feel like the combination of success and stress has made him flatline a bit. I’ve found that he’s gotten increasingly more agitated, less motivated, has lost his sense of ambition and is starting down a self-destructive path. On the weekends he is binge drinking and taking partying to a new level––the night always end in a fight or worse. Whenever I ask him how his day was, he says “it sucked” and completely shuts down. Every time I bring any of this up, he gets really defensive and refuses to talk about it.

I love him and want to help him, but I am at a crossroads. This is affecting me in a negative way and causing me to question our future together. How can I support him without sabotaging my own happiness?

– The supportive but not stupid girlfriend Continue reading Ask Anna: Can I Support My Depressed BF Without Sabotaging Myself?

Attending to Your Mental Health During Addiction Recovery

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So much of my work, whether in individual counseling with clients or directing the day-to-day programming of their clinical experience in rehab, has been about the business of helping people in recovery improve their mental health.

More than a decade of work in the field of addiction treatment has reinforced, for me, that taking care of your mental health is a critical component in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It is one of the most important factors in achieving long-term sobriety and living a happy and fulfilling life in the process.

What Is Mental Health?

But if mental health is so important to recovery, what is it really? Mental health refers to the state of our emotional, psychological and social make-up — the interrelated thoughts, feelings and behaviors that heavily influence our life choices and experiences, the way we handle stress and our relationships with others.

In this sense taking care of our mental health is a whole lot more complex than other forms of physical hygiene that are good for us, like washing hands before meals or taking a daily multi-vitamin. Here are some pointers for how to take care of your mental health when you’re in recovery. Continue reading Attending to Your Mental Health During Addiction Recovery

Traveling with Depression: How I Should Have Prepared

woman traveling mountains

Mental health can be a journey. Journeying while struggling with mental health challenges, however, can be almost impossible.

In 2015 I traveled to Puno, Peru, to work on a research project as a part of my graduate degree in international public health. Before enrolling in the degree program, I had spent the better part of the previous two years traveling and living abroad in some capacity and was excited to have the opportunity to travel as a part of my career.

As my departure date to Peru creeped closer, I started seeing a therapist at the university health center to talk about concerns I had about traveling. I had experienced acute depression that year for the first time and was nervous it would creep back in while I was in a low-resource setting abroad. My in-person therapist told me many students feel this way before completing fieldwork abroad and I would be fine to push through.

I didn’t want my fears around my mental health to stop me from traveling. I wanted to be “strong.” So off I flew to Puno. Continue reading Traveling with Depression: How I Should Have Prepared