What is QACP?

As a counsellor or therapist, we are taught to be neutral, aware of our prejudices and trained to not let it affect our relationship with the client.

We are taught to be curious and open-minded, help the client to take personal responsibility and adapt to the surroundings.

But what if this approach does harm to some? What if by being neutral we are neglecting the experiences of the client, not acknowledging them and thereby losing out on understanding the client in a holistic manner?

For example, if the person complains about a lack of motivation to work, we focus on the multiple ways they can increase their motivation. But what about the reasons they reached an area of no motivation or the why behind it. Leaves us wondering how much emphasis goes to the context in counselling.

And what if, in all this, by ignoring the client’s environment and focusing on self-initiated growth and change we are doing more harm than good. Isn’t that against the ethical code of Mental Health Practice?

“The pandemic has seen numerous queer individuals being forced to spend huge amount of time in dismissive, demeaning and sometimes even abusive or dangerous households. The constant denial of identity and persistent attacks on sense of self – both from outright emotional abuse, but also subtle microaggressions – has caused heightened levels of minority stress, severe depression & anxiety and, in many cases, suicidal ideation in many folks”

Ummang Sharma Bajpai,

on the current situation of Queer Mental Health.

This is where QACP comes in!

Let’s understand each of the terms in their entirety.

Queer is a term used by people who decide to set themselves apart from the hetero-normative majority society as it is functioning today. It is an umbrella term for gender or sexual minorities that do not identify as heterosexual or cis-gendered (conforming to the gender norms existing in society).

Being in the margins away from the centre of society impacts an individual’s whole life. The constant struggles, explanations and fight to stay true to one’s identity is a daily chore and hassle which is commonplace in the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.

By being affirmative in our mental health approach we are indicating that we treat people on the margins with the respect, dignity they deserve.

Affirmation means that your every action instills in the other person a sense of acceptance and understanding of their lives.

When you say, “It must have been difficult growing up in such conditions, I am really glad for the resilience you show” you not only accept the psycho-social context of the individual but also recognise their strengths, their motivation to be true to themselves and the battles and constant struggles they are going through.

This is affirmation. Sounds simple right!

So, an affirmative counselling practice entails that therapy becomes a space of trust and safety for people who have to hide their identities or troubles from the larger society. Not feeling judged is a sense that comes naturally and therefore further permits a deeper sense of therapeutic healing.

Acknowledging the client’s life experience as it is and not pushing the client towards a prescriptive action or plan is one way a therapist can show affirmation.

The and ✅Do’s & ❌Don’ts of being an Affirmative counsellor:

  1. Do not make the client a poster child for the LGBTQIA+ and your frame of reference for the community
  2. Ask pronouns the client prefers
  3. Be visible as a queer affirmative practitioner by having resources in the centre, advertising your pronouns or using terms like ally/ queer affirmative in social media profiles
  4. Use interventions by adapting them to the understanding of the community and revising techniques to suit the client. Remember most of the therapies and approaches were devised after years of work and research with the “white male”, so these interventions might need modifications.
  5. Validate the clients’ experiences be open and curious and also provide the space for the client to express freely their desires and goals.
  6. Leave space in intake form under the section of gender and sexuality -let people write their preferences and not restrict their preferences to ‘other’. That’s not a way to make others feel included

India decriminalised LGBTQIA+ relationships in 2018 but it’s a long way from radical acceptance. LGBTQIA+ people still struggle with expressing themselves openly, or claim rights or occupy spaces that have remained inaccessible to them. Being an affirmative practitioner allows people to open up and feel safe in the space of mental health. So, this is a step in the right direction towards inclusion and acceptance not just in words but through actions and change in thought process.

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About the Author:

Naina Midha

(she/her)

Naina is a QACP certified psychologist offering an eclectic approach to therapy. Her goal is to help individuals equip themselves with inner strengths and resources to resolve any problems in life.

📸 Featured Image by Anna Shvets | Center Image by Sharon McCutcheon
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