In my first column for A&U in August 2002, I wrote about how everybody is a therapist these days – from massage therapy to aromatherapy. I wrote then about how the term “therapist,” as I use it, refers specifically to professional providers of counseling and psychotherapy, who are appropriately trained and licensed by the states in which they practice. By having objective credentialing standards and standards of care, consumers of mental health services are protected from the modern-day equivalent of snake-oil, cure-all hucksters.
I recently saw the legendary drag performer, Miss Coco Peru (Clinton Leupp), do a wonderful homage to Disney’s now-classic musical animated film, “The Little Mermaid,” in her superb stage act. She poignantly and comically draws many parallels between her own life and the life of the fairy tale’s heroine, Ariel, the mermaid who “sells” her beautiful singing voice to the evil sea witch, Ursula, in exchange for getting legs to visit the sea surface, meet, and marry her land-lubber prince. Her identification with Ariel made me think of another analogy: How many people living with HIV “sell” their voice to get the things we need?
One of the sound bytes I remember from my days in elementary school was the phrase, “Everyone line up: boy, girl, boy, girl!” For teachers and school administrators, this was an easy of way of doing crowd control for groups of rambunctious kids. But I remember this was also rife with very predictable, homophobic and sexist jokes, where someone inevitably would say, “Hey, [fill-in-the-blank], which are you?”
I’ll be honest: I never did like math. I always thought numbers were generally a necessary evil, and much preferred words – that’s why I’m a therapist and a writer and not a mathematician or engineer. But for people living with HIV, it’s inevitable that we have to deal with numbers, and lots of them. … Read more
Living with HIV and being in a domestic violence relationship often bring up similar issues. Domestic violence, like HIV, is something stigmatized and often hidden, with many people suffering in silence and isolation when what they really need is human contact and specific help. Both HIV and domestic violence are related to human interpersonal relationships, and both have high emotional stakes. The damage done by each is gradual and insidious, and gets worse with time if it is not stridently addressed in a comprehensive plan for help. Women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, but it’s important to note that men can be victims, too, and it can occur in opposite- and same-sex relationships.
If you’re like most people, by the time February comes, the New Year’s Resolutions you made January 1st are a distant memory. Despite our best-laid plans, it’s hard to make and sustain real changes in our lives, even when we know the changes are necessary or desirable. Living with HIV requires a lot of flexibility and being ready to make changes that will improve our mental or physical health.
Driving through West Hollywood these days, I often see the banners on streetlights and telephone poles with the faces of the “HIV Stops with Me” campaign poster-boys. This public health awareness/HIV prevention program is certainly high-profile, and like everyone else, I hope it does some good to reduce the sadly high number of new HIV infections every year in this country. But I’m not convinced of this campaign’s effectiveness.
Many recent articles in AIDS magazines that I’ve read recently have focused on HIV treatment decisions. They have addressed issues such as when to start therapy, when to change therapy, and even when to fire your doctor. These articles give a great deal of information and advice, but to me something seems missing. When people … Read more
Ever since the days of Prohibition in the 1920’s, or the 1938 camp film, “Reefer Madness”, substances and American politics have clashed in a way that goes far beyond the actual health risks of alcohol or “recreational” drugs and into a moralistic quagmire that leaves people confused and conflicted about just what to believe. I have seen this frequently in my work as a therapist with people who are living with HIV and have issues, or even just questions, about substance use, abuse, and addiction.
While thinking back on my experiences as a therapist who specializes in working with people living with HIV, it’s rewarding to think of how so many clients have made such dramatic improvements in their lives once they accessed mental health services as well as good medical care. They were able to overcome any fears of seeking out mental health treatment and learned how to cope with their particular situations.