Updated: 6 days ago
It is no surprise that the pandemic has delivered large hits to the mental health of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, etc (LGBTQIA+) community. One therapy collective in Canada, with an inspirational founder, is trying to bridge the gap of inclusive service providers but also educate providers so more LGBTQIA+ community members feel comfortable and seen.
I had the great pleasure of crossing paths with Alice Curitz, the founder of Our Landing Place Therapy Collective. Alice is a Canadian-based therapist who, along with her four other providers at Our Landing Place Therapy Collective and many guest speakers, is hosting the upcoming conference, "Queering Mental Health: A Canadian Perspective."
This conference features many guest speakers who share their knowledge and lived experience in the LGBTQIA+ community and help educate others on how to provide inclusive and open spaces.
Read below as Alice answers questions about Our Landing Place Therapy Collective, her personal and professional experiences with being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and accessing mental health care, shares with us about her upcoming conference, "Queering Mental Health: A Canadian Perspective" and educates us a bit on what inclusivity truly looks like.
If I knew nothing about Our Landing Place Therapy Collective, how would you describe it to me?
Our Landing Place Therapy Collective is a collective of LGBTQ2S+ identified counselors providing sex-positive, inclusive, affirming, and competent online therapy to LGBTQ2S+ and neuro-diverse communities across Canada. It is a place where folks can see themselves reflected in their therapists and know that they can show up exactly as they are without fear of rejection, misunderstanding, misgendering, or feeling like they do not belong.
I chose the name, “Our Landing Place,” because I wanted the clinic’s name to reflect that it is a place people, particularly those who often feel like outliers, can feel that they belong and are welcome.
What sparked your passion and foray into your sex-positive, ethical non-monogamy positive, gender identity, and gender-affirming practices?
It has always been a focus for me, far before I became a therapist. My own personal counseling journey began with a negative experience where my identity was not affirmed and my sexuality was heavily judged, and where I left thinking I would never go back to counseling because I would always be judged. Several years later I tried counseling again, and although the counselor was much more welcoming and accepting, a lack of competence and knowledge around LGBTQ2S+ issues left me feeling, again, unsupported.
Fast forward through a few more attempts at finding a good fit, and I finally found someone who I did not have to expend emotional energy educating during a session. The heartwarming joy of being accepted as I was meant I was able to address the significant issues that had brought me to therapy in the first place. I realized at that moment the importance of truly competent and affirming mental health services, and since then I have worked to create an affirming space.
I live in New York State and, when referring to our community, use LGBTQIA+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. I notice in Canada, this is a bit different, and I see it written as LGBTQIA2S+. What does this mean?
The 2S part of the acronym is especially important here in Canada. 2S stands for Two-Spirit (2-spirit, Two Spirit), which is a translation of the Anishinaabemowin term niizh manidoowag, referring to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit. While some people may liken it to the term non-binary, it is important to recognize that Two-Spirit is an Indigenous identity and must only be used by Indigenous folks. Traditionally, Two-Spirit folks are revered within their communities.
Why is it important to have well-informed supports for the queer mental health community?
It is important to have well-informed support for all mental health services in terms of educated and qualified mental health service providers. When working with specific communities, for example, the queer community, having well-intentioned and accepting therapists is not enough. We need practitioners who are true allies: practitioners who educate themselves on queer issues, who listen to and center queer voices, and who use their privileges to fight for true inclusivity and equity for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Our community has unique and nuanced needs that directly impact not only their mental health but also their access to mental health services. It is important to remember that within the LGBTQ2S+ community, there are other factors that intersect and affect someone’s health and access to services.
Truly competent and affirming therapists stay up to date on their knowledge on these topics, allowing members of the queer community to show up as themselves without a need for expending emotional energy educating their therapist or hiding parts of themselves to be accepted. Additionally, being LGBTQ2S+ identified does not qualify someone in and of itself to be a competent and affirming therapist. Within our community, there are still imbalances and discrimination that need to be addressed, and so it is important that we are learning from and listening to one another.
What have you observed in your practice and career in mental health regarding the availability and accessibility of well-informed queer mental health supports?
There are some incredibly inclusive and knowledgeable service providers out there. I am fortunate to know several LGBTQ2S+ identified and cisgender-heterosexual therapists who continue to work on their allyship and education, and who provide fantastic support to members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Unfortunately, there just are not currently enough of these wonderful therapists. There are so many therapists eager to work with the queer community but who have not yet done the work to ensure their practice is affirming and knowledgeable.
Access is an important piece to think about. For many, there are financial barriers to accessing private competent and affirming mental health services. Public sector, non-profit, and community counseling are available to some. But there are many very well-intentioned counselors who do not have the education, knowledge, lived experience, or depth of understanding to support the community. I believe one of the reasons for this is a gap in LGBTQ2S+ training opportunities, particularly Canadian-focused resources. The conference was borne out of a need for Canadian-centered queer education.
In what ways have you seen the pandemic affect the queer mental health community?
Many folks in the community have lost access to many of their social supports. Peer and professional support groups, local Pride and community-based events, sports teams, queer performance opportunities, and the ability to spend time in person with loved ones has increased feelings of loneliness and disconnection, as well as stripping many of having a place where they can embrace their true selves.
The other side of this, however, has been an increased online presence. Many folks in rural and remote communities have been able to connect with online events and services, which has opened opportunities for more connection and self-exploration. One of the reasons that Our Landing Place works exclusively online is to connect folks with the right therapist for them, regardless of their location.
The transgender and non-binary community seem to have taken especially hard hits regarding community isolation in the pandemic. What are your thoughts on the validity of this and the reasons why? How can we as a mental health community and members of humanity in general better support this hard-hit part of our community?
I believe this is a very valid perspective. Support groups, social activities, and community resources have become harder to access. Gender-affirming procedures and medical appointments have been reduced or paused, which can increase feelings of dysphoria and hopelessness for many. The trans* community has been excluded from and/or minimized in queer narratives for a long time, and while it seems that this is improving and many LGBTQ2S+ organizations and community resources are beginning to prioritize trans* folks’ needs and highlight their contributions to our history and our present-day experiences, losing access to face-to-face time with others in the community and being able to see themselves represented in those they spend time with can have very real impacts on mental health.
I believe that we as a mental health community and members of humanity in general can better support trans* folks by not only ensuring we are providing affirming and competent mental health services, but also by ensuring we are creating true safety, acceptance, and a commitment to continued allyship in our personal lives too.
What is the focus of your upcoming conference, “Queering Mental Health: A Canadian Perspective”?
The conference focuses on the intersections of queerness and mental health. All too often we think about gender and sexuality in very binary or traditional terms, failing to acknowledge the ways in which social factors-including race, religion, and relationship structures, -determine our mental health. The conference is an amazing opportunity for folks within and outside of the LGBTQ2S+ to learn from those with a combination of lived experience and formal education on ways in which we can all better support the queer community.
Who would benefit from your conference, “Queering Mental Health: A Canadian Perspective”?
While the conference is aimed at increasing the understanding of mental health professionals across Canada, it is ideal for any professional or educator working with the LGBTQ2S+ community, as well as the members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and the general population who are interested in the topics covered. Although the conference is Canadian-focused, we welcome attendees from across the globe, as there will, of course, be a lot of applicable knowledge shared in all the conference’s presentations.
When you think of a well-informed queer mental health support what does that look like? Sound like?
To me, that looks like someone who has taken the initiative to educate themselves from a variety of sources, particularly from folks with lived experience. This is not a one-time occurrence, but an ongoing commitment to staying up to date on emerging issues, research, and community needs, seeking to understand the tapestry of the intersections within and outside of the LGBTQ2S+ community, and being willing to be vulnerable and to accept that they have gaps in understanding or preconceived biases that they are willing and ready to challenge and unlearn. Lastly, it is so important for folks to be connected to their local queer communities through participation in social events and activism.
What helps those not familiar with the queer community best integrate well-informed practices into their routines?
The biggest piece is integrating knowledge gained from listening to queer voices into all aspects of their work, both personal and professional. There is a lot of work that goes into challenging our own internal biases and expectations.
It is important that all of us, particularly those folks with more privilege (be that race, gender, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, etc.) intentionally set out to do this important work, and that they take that on as their own without expecting marginalized folks to provide free emotional labor.
One of the reasons I decided to put together this conference was to offer folks an opportunity to learn from those with lived experience in a place that supports not only the learners but also those who are doing the work of educating.
Alice and everyone striving for inclusive mental health care at Our Landing Place Therapy Collective and those guests at the "Queering Mental Health: A Canadian Perspective" are doing such inspiring work. We can not hope to provide inclusive accessible care to minority communities if we are not prepared to do the work and educate ourselves.
If you are interested in this groundbreaking conference, do not hesitate to go here and purchase your ticket. Also please visit Our Landing Place Therapy Collective on Facebook, Instagram, or their website.
ABOUT ALICE CURITZ
Alice Curitz (she/her, MA, RCC CCC) is the Founder and Clinical Director of Our Landing Place, a collective of LGBTQ2S+ identified counselors working with LGBTQ2S+, Polyamorous, and Neurodiverse communities across Canada. Alice has designed and facilitated inclusivity and diversity training programs for almost 15 years. She provides case consultation services to counselors and other mental health professionals and offers inclusivity consulting services to practitioners, professionals, educators, and organizations worldwide. Alice is grateful to live, work and play on the unceded traditional Epekwitk Mi'kmaq territory.