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Dominic Davies-LGBT-Therapist: interview

Posted 28 Jan '13 by Bay Whitaker

Dominic Davies is the Author of the Pink Therapy trilogy, an extremely influential series of books for counsellors and psychotherapists working with sexual minorities.  He is the founder of the therapy and training organisation,  Pink Therapy.  He has kindly agreed to share with us his story and thoughts about working with gender and sexual minorities

Can you tell us a bit about how long you have been a therapist, how long you have specialized in work with LGBT clients, and what got you interested in this profession?

I've worked as a therapist for over 30 years, and pretty much throughout that time I've been involved in raising awareness of the issues involved in working with LGBT clients, so both training therapists in this area and offering therapy.  When I left school, I worked as a residential social worker in an environment which at that time was completely unsafe to be openly gay and felt quite toxic to me.  I also volunteered with my local Samaritan's and felt much more accepted there and so decided to train as a youth counsellor and in those days one either went into social work training or community and youth work training.  There were very few pure counselling courses and at 21, I was too young to train in them!  So I did youth work training and moved into counselling from that.

How did you come to set up your practice Pink Therapy?

I'd been living in Australia for the best part of a year finishing the co-editing of the second and third volumes of the Pink Therapy trilogy and doing some freelance training and I settled in London and set up Pink Therapy on my return, in 1999.  In 2000, We ran a series of seminars for every chapter in each book - and these were very popular and so the training arm of Pink Therapy grew from that. 

We now have year long university accredited post graduate training in gender and sexual diversity therapy and in September a brand new one year specialist training in Relationship Therapy with Gender and Sexual Diversities which I'm very excited about and many of our workshops that have been endorsed by BACP and COSRT.

Are there any changes that you have observed over the years, in the types of clients and/or issues that come to you at Pink Therapy?

It's been exciting to see the growth of the field and how clients are making use of therapy.  I think the bulk of my work has been about helping people live more resourcefully in the world.  They want a therapist who understands something about their social context who can sit alongside them as they face their world and who uses their lens to see things rather than a heteronormative lens.  Whilst I do see people who 'struggle' with their sexuality or gender identity, most people are coming for life issues - sex, intimate relationships, work, family stuff.  More gay men have been talking about becoming parents in various forms. 

Until about a decade ago gay and bisexual men made up around 90% of my case load.  Over the past decade, I've also been working with more trans clients and this has become a significant interest for me.  The challenges of managing to live well as a trans person are in many ways how things were for gay men 30 years ago - frequent discrimination, transphobia, fear of (and actual) rejection by family and friends.  I feel passionately committed about trying to support therapy in this area.

You have also campaigned on a number of issues relating to therapy and LGBT, what issue(s) do you feel is particularly live for UK therapists - and for you - at the moment?

I've always taken a non-pathologising approach to consensual sexual expression and a non-binary view of gender.  I've campaigned about attempts to 'cure' gay or trans people of their sexuality or gender expression.  I've challenged the dominant discourses around 'sexual addiction' and trying to offer non-pathologising ways to think about and work with sexual compulsivity and am in the process of planning a paper proposing Sexual Shame Disorder as an alternative diagnosis for the next revision of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). I've been working on helping therapists realise the value in offering therapy to people undergoing gender transition or living outside a gender binary.  Many trans people are on very low incomes and yet are desperate for skilled low cost therapy for what must be one of the most immense psychosocial adjustments anyone can make.  I'm also committed to improving access and support for members of the kink communities to have culturally sensitive therapeutic help.  I am busy man!

Most of us are used to the acronym LGBT.  You also use the acronym GSD for 'gender and sexual diversities' - can you explain why/how this is different from LGBT?

Yes, another acronym! Well, LGBT got extended to LGBTIQQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning and their allies) and that still left out plenty of people who were being discriminated against and misunderstood or demonised. For example people who are Asexual and experience no sexual desire, People involved in BDsM/Kink (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and submission, Sado-Masochism), trans-oriented people and then people in consensually non-monogamous relationships: polyamorous and swingers and others in open relationships.  If someone identifies as heterosexual and involved in one of those lifestyles. identities or practices and had difficulties in their lives or relationships, where would they go?  At present, Relate isn't really geared up for them and the LGBT sector are only working with people who identify as LGBT.  So, Pink Therapy is recognising some of the similarities and differences between these groups and we've extended the definitions and started to talk about gender and sexual diversities.  We hope it will catch on!

To find out more about Dominic's work as a therapist, campaigner, trainer and author, have a look at the Pink Therapy website