Archive of ‘Teens’ category

Kings & Queens: Tips from a Therapist on Coming Out

In honor of October being Coming Out Month, I wanted to write a blog very near and dear to my heart. Easily over half of my clients identify as LGBT, non-traditional, non-monogamous, and have some form of a coming out story. Whether they did not feel attracted to the opposite sex, they did not identify as the sex they were born, or the idea of a traditional monogamous marriage was not attractive to them, over 60% of my clients have had to go through the mystical, terrifying, and liberating experience of coming out. 

If you are questioning your sexuality, myself as well as the folks at Austin Family Counseling want to reassure you that you do not have to go through this alone. Coming out itself is a very isolating experience, and given the current pandemic, we need as little isolation as possible. Per my previous blog, social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. When a human comes out to their friends, family, and coworkers, their need for emotional support is so strong as it is one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. 

Below are helpful suggestions from an out-of-the-closet gay man turned therapist to the LGBT community of Texas who had his own share of struggles coming out in early adulthood. These tips are generalized as every person’s story is unique and beautifully different. 

Know Who Your Cheerleaders Are and Are Not

As the great Dr. Brene Brown talked about in her book “Daring Greatly”, all of us in some way, regardless of if we have a coming out history, are walking into some kind of arena in life. We are showing up and being seen, regardless of where we are. And in this metaphorical arena she has so beautifully drawn, all of us have the Support Section. This is the section closest to the arena where the cheerleaders in our lives belong—the people who get the closest and most intimate perspective of our struggles. And these people we absolutely need in our lives when we come out.  Siblings are often the first people who non-heteronormative people come out to first. They can also be parents, close friends, teachers, counselors, mentors, and close relatives. Consider who is going to be cheering you on and in your corner when you come out. Messages like “This does not change how much I love you”, “We are still your friends regardless”, “We love you no matter what” are messages that ideally should be told to someone who is so vulnerable when coming out. 

Being someone’s cheerleader when they come out does NOT sound like: “Well, just don’t hit on me if you are gay”, “It’s okay, I won’t tell anybody”, or “It’s okay, God will forgive you.” There are sadly still families who disown their children for coming out, and in lieu of the recent banning of Conversion Therapy this is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that has no place in our current climate. 

Be Mindful of What Could Change

Since coming out can be such a freeing and liberating experience, it is almost counterintuitive to say that there can be “consequences”. As mentioned above, some families disown their relatives for coming out (the amount of homeless LGBTQ youth makes up 40% of the entire minor homeless population). Some workplaces still discriminate against LGBTQ employees for coming out at the workplace. Though we should ALL be able to live authentically as our out and proud selves, I know several clients and several close friends who have had an adverse experience when coming out to their friends and family. 

Be Mindful of Mental Health

Bias aside, it is almost always better if you have a therapist to stay with you during the coming out process. As mentioned, coming out can be very isolating and is linked to depression, anxiety, compromised immune systems, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol abuse. In extreme cases, some people never come out of the closet and suffer from very high anxiety and feel obligated to live a double life which can be very harmful for mental and physical health. 

Bullying Sadly Still Exists in 2020

I am filled in by a lot of my queer teens and early adults who sadly experience an enormously high level of bullying both in person and through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Teens who are forcibly outed are prone to suicidal thoughts, feelings of humiliation and embarrassment, and lower senses of self esteem. Having gone through my own fair share of bullying in high school, I am fully empathetic to how painful and scary repetitive bullying can be. 

Bullying for queer people can also be present in the adult world. As women, racial and cultural minorities, and persons with special needs can empathize with, bullying in the workplace is alarmingly common. Workplace discrimination based on sexual identity is still sadly alive and well. However, if bullying in any capacity (from coworkers, managers, supervisors, bosses, etc) is present, it is NEVER okay and does not need to be tolerated. 

FOR TEENS:

If you are an in-the-closet teen and reading this, please know I am here, I am with you, and I am here to help. I have been through some of the worst parts about coming out (before and after) and I can probably relate to the struggles of coming out in a world that is more straight-friendly. Please let me reassure you that you do not have to go through the process by yourself. One of my favorite kind of client is a teen who is going through the coming-out process as I was there not TOO long ago. 😊 If you are not in a place to tell your parents why you need counseling for coming out, feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions about resources I can give you—and there are plenty in Austin! 

Written by: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

Looking for more resources? Click here!


Back to School: Fall 2020 Edition

With summer quickly coming to an end, the back to school preparation looks a little different this year. In fact, this year has looked a lot different than any other year so far. Because of all the changes that are occurring I wanted to give my Back to School list of resources for families.

Talking, again, about COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken a toll on families in the shape of illness, job loss, life loss, staying at home with the whole family, the changing of school structure, and so much more. It is exhausting trying to keep a “normal” with so much chaos and change. It is SO important for families to focus on connection. Connection can be small moments of checking in or intentional moments, like a family dinner or meeting. By maintaining connection in the family, you are allowing natural moments of empathy and understanding to occur. These connection moments can let a family adapt through change by knowing where every family member is emotionally. Below are some resources to help families set up time to connect, how to connect, and what to connect about.

Families and Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement has created a lot of conversations in families and communities. Talking through questions like:

  • What is racism?
  • Is reverse racism real?
  • What is white privilege?
  • What is systemic racism?
  • Am I part of the problem?
  • How can I be part of the change?
  • In what ways can I support Black Lives Matter?

These questions can feel overwhelming. Connection, again, is a key ingredient in creating conversation with your family in how to research, educate, and answer these many questions. Below are some resources to help families talk through how to educate themselves, their family, and support Black Lives Matter.

General Resources for Your Family

The below include general resources/suggestions for you and your family to practice self-care, in general. Remember–there is not a right or wrong way to practice self-care and to feel your feelings as long as you’re giving yourself the opportunity to do so!

The above resources are a collection of books, podcasts, words of encouragement, documents, and websites from myself and by my colleagues in the therapy field! Thank you to all of my friends and colleagues in the therapy world to help me create this back to school list. I also want to note that the resources are not exhaustive by any means; there are MANY tips, tricks, tools–this barely scratches the surface. However, it felt like a great place to start and a necessary tool to share with families. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns!

By: Julie Smith, LMFT


How to Talk About “Hookup Culture” with Tweens and Teens

(AKA What the Heck is the Hot Girl Summer Challenge and why is it influencing my teen to want to “hookup”?)

If you are like me, you may have little-to-no knowledge about the Hot Girl Summer Challenge that is blowing up on tween and teen social media accounts, most notably, Tik Tok.  When I first heard about it from one of my clients, I felt totally out of the loop.  With very little research, I was able to find out that it is based on a song from last summer by Megan Thee Stallion called “Hot Girl Summer.” She says on Twitter, “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party, etc.” What I’ve learned from talking to teens and tweens is that this message has translated very differently to different kids.  For some, it truly is about inspiration and positivity while for others, it is in inspiration to “hookup”. I’ve seen lists that include…

Hot Girl Summer Challenge – Version 1

  • Taking a bath (5 points)
  • Working out (10 points)
  • Staying up all night with your best friend (15 points)
  • Doing something nice for a friend (15 points)

Unfortunately the song and its message has also been the inspiration for lists that look like this:

Hot Girl Summer Challenge – Version 2

  • Sexting (5 points)
  • Hookup with 2 guys (10 points)
  • Ghost someone (10 points)
  • Hot tub makeout (10 points)

As a parent myself, when I hear about trends like this, I panic a little inside. Further, I feel the strong pull to get my kids in front of me and tell them about every possible danger they might face and how to protect themselves.  However, what I have learned as a therapist and Positive Discipline Trainer is that trends like this one are actually OPPORTUNITIES for us to connect with our kids. 

START HERE: Be Genuinely Curious About Their World

Start with approaching your kiddo with an attitude of curiosity.  If you are really anxious or worried when you bring this up, they will feel it and shut down or become upset. Ground yourself first by taking deep breaths or trying one of the practices in this blog by my dear colleague Julie Burke, LPC.

Conversational Curiosity Questions:

  • Can you teach me about ___?
  • What is Hot Girl Summer? Can you tell me about it?
  • Are your friends doing it?
  • What were you trying to accomplish?
  • What’s the goal of Hot Girl Summer? 
  • How do you get points? 
  • What do you think of HGS?
  • How do you feel about what happened?
  • How did you feel about your score being posted by your BFF? 
  • Are you okay?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • What did you learn from what happened?/What are you learning from the HGS Challenge?
  • What ideas do you have to take care of the problem now?
  • What ideas do you have to move forward with Tik Tok use in a safe way?
  • What agreements do you want to make about your phone and social media use?
  • How do you plan to address this issue with your BFF? 
  • Is there any other information you can give me to help me understand?

For counseling for your tween/teen and or for parent support, please reach out to AFC to talk to a therapist today!  [email protected]  

For more information about parenting tweens and teens, please check out the following::

By: Lora Ferguson, MA, LPC-S, AFC Founder & Co-Director


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