Access Institute | Healing our LGBT Seniors: Access Institute and Openhouse Launch New Partnership
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02 Aug Healing our LGBT Seniors: Access Institute and Openhouse Launch New Partnership

Access Institute is proud to announce the expansion of its elder program through a partnership with Openhouse: Housing, Community & Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Seniors. Our therapists, Katie Flach and Ross Callahan (pictured left) are now working on-site at Openhouse to help senior members of San Francisco’s LGBT community cope with challenges such as loss, isolation, trauma, depression, and dementia.

The treatment provided to clients at Openhouse by Access Institute differs from traditional intervention services in that it has been designed to address the specific mental health and psychosocial needs of LGBT seniors. Our therapists practice culturally-integrated psychotherapy that recognizes the barriers that have traditionally limited access to mental health and social support services to members of this community. Central to our therapeutic approach is an openness to exploring how homo- and transphobia have impacted LGBT individuals, both in terms of their unique subjectivities and in their ability to access basic services and find support in the community.

Access Institute understands that LGBT seniors may be reticent to engage in traditional forms of mental health treatment, as many of them may have endured treatments earlier in their lives that were explicitly designed to change their sexual orientation. Our therapists recognize this history of bias within the mental health system and work to address the resulting psychological pain and negative impacts on self-esteem. “A lot of these individuals have well-worn relationship patterns that constrict their emotional and social lives and prevent them from connecting with others,” said Callahan. “If I can help them to open up to new relational experiences, it might help them shift those patterns.” While Callahan currently facilitates group therapy, he also is looking forward to working with clients individually. “My hope is that therapy will help them begin to feel seen and heard, so they’ll feel less isolated and more connected,” he said.
In addition to providing individual and group therapy to the Openhouse residents, Access Institute therapists will also conduct periodic trainings and ongoing support in critical mental health topics such as trauma informed care, grief, and dementia.
While the community partnership with Openhouse started less than one month ago, the connections that residents have formed through their participation in Access Institute services already has begun. “My favorite part is when the clients in group therapy are engaged and supportive of each other,” said Flach. “The magic is there. It’s so amazing to see it.”
All of the services provided by Access Institute at Openhouse are free of charge to the seniors, supported by funding from a Reducing Disparities Project Grant through the state of California and private donations.
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