Why is it so hard to find support and opportunities to connect with our communities?
Even though, as people outside of the sexual and relationship mainstream, we know that we have to work out our own ways to fit into the world, it is nevertheless surprising that it is so hard to find affirming help. I’ve talked to many people that fall under the gender, relationship and sexual diversity (GSRD) umbrella including trans people, sex workers, people in non-monogamous relationships, and other queer people that all say the same thing.
Helping professionals are failing us.
We don’t have access to the support or the skills that we need.
A part of being human is that we sometimes have a hard time processing the difficult emotions that we experience. This is only made harder when we have marginalised identities and/or we live in conservative communities where resources may be limited and we fear judgement from the professionals that are supposed to support us as well as our family and loved ones.
I’ve heard people say things like:
“It’s exhausting to find the right support. I need to explain my gender and also have to assure somebody that my gender is not the problem, it’s everything else. I worry they will judge my poly relationships, or think I’m faking my chronic pain or fatigue.” Danni
“My therapist just though I was being avoidant and that being polyamorous was a symptom of not being properly attached. That just made me feel even more alone” Sarah
“My therapist told me I’d never be able to heal while I was a sex worker, they refused to work with me any longer unless I quit sex work, even though it wasn’t the problem I went to therapy to work on” Leanne
When I first came out as a queer & poly woman at age 29, I really struggled to find competent support. I needed to feel connected to my queer community. I needed to learn how to navigate my relationships outside of the norms that I’d been taught. I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard time and time again that it is nearly impossible to find safe places to talk about the joys and challenges of non-monogamy, queerness and creating relationships beyond the ones that are most often depicted in the media.
I needed these courses.
I couldn’t find them.
The courses that I run teach a series of skills for coping with distress, regulating emotions and managing interpersonal relationships. In the emotion regulation course you’ll learn how to work through challenging emotions and act upon them effectively. The distress tolerance course will teach you how to cope with intense emotions and increase your ability to survive a crisis. The interpersonal effectiveness course will help you to navigate interpersonal relationships and work out how to balance your long term objectives with the situation at hand. The DBT for non-monogamy course rolls up key skills in each area into a single course with lots of examples related to relationship diversity.
Who are my courses for?
There is plenty of judgement, discrimination and marginalisation in the world, we don’t need to replicate that when engaging with psychological skills and therapy. These DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) skills groups are revolutionary because they bring together GSRD people into supportive groups so we can effectively learn skills to transform our lives. It is uniquely healing to be seen and validated by members of our community and to learn these skills in a group we can bring our whole selves to.
People in my groups say say that they are effective for them because:
“I know I don’t have to explain certain aspects of myself. I know everybody just gets it. Even when I’m talking about race to white folks in the group, I know they understand oppression more than anyone else in my life.” Jade.
“They give a lot of useable tools and skills with an emphasis on progressive learning and adapting things to different situations and needs.” Robin
“It’s really nice to feel seen and understood. And to have space with people like me.” Anon
We all go to school and learn loads of things we never use again, but we are taught very little about how to cope with emotions. Nevertheless, our relationship with our emotions is central to our lives. When we struggle to connect with our emotions at all it can be difficult to take care of ourselves and make good decisions. When we are frequently overwhelmed by our emotions, they can derail our lives and relationships. Learning to notice and respond effectively to our emotions is critical to creating the lives we want to live.
I offer courses that help people to build psychological and relationship skills. These courses are targeted at specific groups of people who often find psychotherapy hard to access, such as sex workers, people in non monogamous relationships and queer people. You’re especially welcome if you’re just starting your journey into these identities or you’re not quite sure how you fit. Right now you can find out more about the group I’m running for sex work performers here. If you’re non-monogamous, you can find out more about the 10-week skills course starting in October here.
Why work with me?
Of course, working with me isn’t the only way to learn these skills. Lots of people pick up DBT books, which are really great. There are also some wonderful resources on youtube that can help you to learn the skills independently. Sadly, these resources alone are often not enough. They do let you dip your toe into the work of learning these skills, but being part of a group is a really different experience. You learn from what others have tried, you get to see how your struggles are experienced by other people.
There are also other DBT programmes out there, including residential ones where you could learn these skills, but often these require a diagnosis or are very expensive to access. You might also feel like you need to hide parts of yourself to be accepted in those groups – despite their intentions to be non-judgemental.
What you won’t get from either of those options is a group of peers to support you on this journey. As far as I know, there are no other places that offer online DBT skills groups for sex workers, poly folks and queer people. Learning in a group of peers allows you to bring in examples from your life that might be judged in other contexts. This can help you to dive deeply into learning the skills much more effectively than you would be able to in other ways. People that have attended the course have said:
“I have found ways to cope and been encouraged to use them as and when I’m up for it, long term. I feel like I can work with my traits that I used to think of as negative/ want to avoid.” Jade
What does the course consist of?
With my DBT skills training you can expect to be part of a supportive group that will help you to learn skills to manage your emotions and relationships. You will be able to use these skills in your life (and teach them to others in your community). Each of the courses has a different focus, and you’ll find the content information about each course on the page for them. Take a look at Emotion Regulation and Distress Tolerance or DBT for consensual non monogamy.
You will get resources to help you learn and practice the skills. We will meet for a 2-hour session each week and there will be homework to complete between sessions – this usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour.
You will be invited to join a slack channel where additional resources will be posted and you will be invited to ask any questions that you have. We start with a mindfulness exercise, then in each session after the first we would go through the homework and discuss each of our experiences with it. Then we would have a 5-10 minute break. After the break, we would learn a new skill.
These skills are simple to understand and are taught in manageable chunks, but putting them into practice takes time and work. To support you in developing these skills, I will give you handouts and worksheets to help you learn them effectively.
Find out more about ways to work with me below:
I am currently accepting new clients who wish to work with me on a regular basis. My coaching rates for a 50 minute session are $120 (£90). I offer a free 30 minute initial session.
I teach groups of people skills for surviving crises, processing emotions effectively and navigating interpersonal relationship.
I offer workshops that help people to be more connected to their emotions, desires, boundaries and needs. These classes help people to treat themselves more consensually and to have more intentional and authentic relationships with others.
I can’t wait to learn something together.
If you’re hoping to sink your teeth into the work straight away, you will find many resources on my website ready to help you.
If you’re hoping to build skills to support your non monogamous relationships, I’d recommend checking out my posts on conflict skills, writing your user manual and conflicts with metamours. If you or your partner is at the start of a new relationship, you might find my series of posts on new relationship energy (NRE) useful, or the sometimes bumpy transition from new to existing relationship energy. It could also be useful read about how much I love slow starts to relationships, and how to slow things down at the beginning of your relationship. Oh yes, and no section in building relationship skills would be complete without suggesting you consider making a breakup plan.
I really love working on building more consensual relationships with ourselves, as a building block to creating more authentic and connecting relationships with others. You can find a whole series of posts on self consent with a week of daily exercises here.
If you’re here to work on coping with emotions, I’ve written quite a bit about that too! You can find some useful exercises on taking your emotional temperature and what to do with different intensities of emotions. There are some resources for coping with intense emotions, intrusive thoughts and crises. You can learn more about this by joining one of my courses.
I only work with adults, so if you are a teenager looking for advice on sex and relationship I’d suggest you start with Bish or the Scarleteen blog or getting in touch with a helpline specifically focused on working with teens, such as Teen Helpline. If you are a teenager looking for support with LGBT issues, in the UK you can contact The LGBT+ Helpline, and in Ireland you can contact BeLongTo.