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University Starts Family Clinic for LGBTQ Youth

The Center for Counseling and Family Therapy at Saint Louis University will offer family group therapy for queer and transgender youth and their caregivers. The sessions are open to adolescents aged 13 to 20 and a parent/guardian.

The sessions will be led by Katie Heiden-Rootes, PhD, LMFT, an assistant professor of medical family therapy in Family and Community Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and will include three graduate-level therapy students.

The clinic’s goal is to help improve caregiver understanding of queer and trans identities, improve relationships between parents and LGBTQ youth, and increase well-being and health for both the adolescents and their families.

“The number 1 predictor of suicide and depression in LGBTQ youth is parent misunderstanding or lack of support,” Heiden-Rootes says. “And if that is based on your identity, who you are, then that wound is extremely painful.”

Heiden-Rootes says the therapy sessions will work on the one to one relationship between LGBTQ adolescent and parent. The sessions will begin with a full group activity before breaking out into parent and youth sessions. Adolescents and parents will talk about emotion regulation when talking about hard things, dreams for their families and futures, positive parenting skills, changing expectations, and the need for both parent supervision and adolescent autonomy.

“We want to help both the adolescents and their parents work on really hearing each other and reconnecting with each other,” Heiden-Rootes says. “You have the teens at a point where they are naturally pushing away from their parents, but they also still need to know that they are loved and supported.”

For parents, Heiden-Rootes says that it can be helpful to remember the parent they originally set out to be.

“Parents have expectations for their child from the moment they are born, and sometimes hurt or shock can get in the way of that when a child comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender,” she says. “Caregivers need to reconnect with the parents they wanted to be and the home they want to create—a home full of love and respect for each other. Everyone wants to raise kind, empathic, independent people and these kids are all those things. Parents need to see that the child that they raised is still that same child and the youth need to have an affirmation of their parent’s support and a feeling of community.”

Source: Saint Louis University Medical Center