People in the LGBT community who are looking for resources on coming out and mental and physical health have several options. Here are three people making a difference in bringing these resources to the Kansas City community.
This counselor actually took the advice that she might give to a client: Follow your dreams.
Local clinical worker Elaine Meizlish has decided to move to Santa Fe, N.M., with her life partner, Barbara Radov. Also a licensed counselor, Radov shares a business with Meizlish -- Counseling and Human Relation Associates.
In addition to leaving her Kansas City practice, Meizlish will also be giving up her role as a member of the Kansas City Women’s Chorus. In past years, Meizlish has been a host of the Saturday afternoon radio show, The Tenth Voice, on KKFI-FM (90.1).
We first interviewed Meizlish for a story on her Coming Out Group for married or divorced women in the October 2008 issue of Camp.
Meizlish started the group about five years ago, and it has continued to get together monthly, using a meeting room at UMKC. She held her last group on July 9. The group will continue in Meizlish’s absence, with Kathy Steiner as the new facilitator.
“I talked with the women in the group, and they were all very committed to wanting the group to continue. The women who had been there for a while found the group very helpful to them and wanted to be there for their own support but also to help the other women who continue to come into the group as we keep getting new group members,” Meizlish said.
Meizlish says the group gets about two new group members every few months. She said she’s had a consistent group of five to seven women.
“This is a group for women who have been – and I will now say heterosexually married, make that distinction – women who have been heterosexually married and are now questioning their sexual orientation,” she said.
The women in the group, she said, may still be married, separated or divorced. Spouses do not attend the group.
Members’ ages range from 23 to mid-50s, Meizlish said.
“Actually the women who were younger have not stayed as long as women who were older, and I think part of that is generational and the difference in the level of self-acceptance and sense of self. I think that the younger generation has a sense of self-acceptance different than people of our generation. There isn’t as much internalized homophobia you have to work through.”
Meizlish also said that the issue is tougher for many of the older women because they have children and families, which some of the younger women do not yet have.
Meizlish said that she and Radov have talked about their move for the last five years.
“We have been going out to Santa Fe a couple of times a year and really liking the area and also making connections … first personally, of course, and then gradually, professionally.”
The process of obtaining their clinical licenses in New Mexico has included cultural diversity training.
“I need to get sensitized to the culture of Native Americans and the different pueblos and how that then relates to sexual or gender identity issues. That’s where I think will really be an area of growth for me,”
Meizlish said. She said that she and Radov also do long-term therapy with clients in Kansas City and that they will continue in that role via Skype and telephone sessions.
“And then we’ll plan to come back a couple of times a year for that face-to-face contact, as well as see all of my friends and people who are in Kansas City. … And we hope to make a Heartland Men’s Chorus or Women’s Chorus, too,” she said with a laugh. “This move is truly a leap of faith and trust.”
Elaine Meizlish knew that the Women’s Coming Out Group would be in good hands when she chose Kathy Steiner to succeed her. Steiner said something similar about Meizlish: “We’ve had a collegial relationship. We had seen each other over the years and we refer to each other and have had a mutual respect.”
Steiner said she had been to one previous meeting of the Women’s Coming Out Group before the July 9 meeting, which was also a send-off gathering for Meizlish.
Steiner, a lesbian, said she didn’t think that her sexual orientation was a necessary attribute to lead the group. But, she said, “I think it’s probably helpful to be on that side of life and to see the dilemmas and troubles. To be a therapist who has more likely seen more lesbians and gay men. I was very happy to see that there is a place for women to speak in a safe environment, for women to talk about that process.”
“Elaine clearly said, ‘please make this your own group, your own way of doing things,’ but the group and the way it has been managed has been so successful, I can’t imagine doing that,” Steiner said. “After the first meeting I attended, I wrote a note immediately to all of them because I was so deeply touched by their stories and their willingness to be as open as they were with a stranger in the group. … I could see the amazing process that had happened in those years that Elaine had been with them and that they had shared as individuals with each other. And so no, I don’t want to touch that process, I don’t want to mess with that at all. I will certainly have my own style, but I’m a person that works from a place of … I will always invite group members that if they’re having any issues or discomforts with me, I will ask them to please come to me so we can talk that through together. So that we can continue to feel safe and fluid and like a place that they can come.”
Steiner said she has been fortunate to have been partnered for 32 years. “Yes, we’re oldies,” she laughed. “And I’ve been in private practice for 26 years. Before that I worked in the community mental health system in Wyandotte County.” She is a native of St. Louis and went to the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she received her master’s degree in social work. She is a licensed specialist clinical social worker (LSCSW) in Kansas and practices from her own office near 75th and State Line.
The Coming Out Group for Married, Separated or Divorced Women meets monthly from 10 a.m. to noon. The address is kept confidential. For more information, contact Kathy Steiner at 913-384-5503.
She said she prefers the phone over email because she’s “a dinosaur when it comes to technology” and she likes to keep her one means of contact with people concise.
The LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Kansas City is a great new online resource, and Jeff Lubsen has been helping to put it together. It’s a comprehensive listing of mental and physical health resources for the LGBT community and other organizational listings as well.
Lubsen recently moved to the Kansas City area from Utah with his partner, who is going to medical school. Having grown up in Sioux City, he said that this is in some ways returning to the Midwest.
Lubsen said he now is putting his energy into making sure the website lists all of the resources for mental health counseling but he is also actively expanding the listings for physical, dental and other health resources. Individuals and organizations in the medical fields must be licensed in their state to be listed in the resources.
Lubsen is humble about his role and gives the true credit for the Therapists Guild to the original organizer, Jim Struve, in Utah. Lubsen says, “I am simply the organizer hoping to get the word out.”
Lubsen said he likes using the name and concept of a guild for the group because it is focused on education, mentoring and collaboration. The board of directors is now being finalized and it’s expected to be 6-10 people.
Professionals can register online for the Guild’s first in-service meeting on the morning of Sept. 15. Details are being ironed out as Camp goes to press and will be available on the group’s website.
“Recent literature has begun to identity a gap or disparity in the level and quality of health care available to sexual minorities,” Lubsen said. “Part of the responsibility of a culturally competent health-care provider is to maintain an awareness of the particular needs of the population in which he or she serves.”
In 2010, Lubsen said, he started exploring the needs of the Kansas City community and noticed that “while there are many LGBT mental and medical health-care resources, there isn’t a central location where consumers can go to find these resources. After visiting with a handful of local providers, I also noticed that many providers are segmented from one another and potentially unaware of the specialties that other LGBT-affirming providers offer.”
Now, he says, “My goal is threefold. First, I hope to create a group solely focused on providing both local and national LGBT-affirmative health-care resources for consumers. Our website also lists local mental and medical health-care providers who are members of the Guild. Second, I hope to create a network for other professionals to cross-refer and build solidarity. Our quarterly meetings also offer in-service continuing education training pertaining to LGBT health-care issues. Third, I specifically hope that our organization can serve as a model for all health-care providers about the importance of being multiculturally competent.”
Part of the role of a health-care provider who serves minorities, he said, may involve advocacy. “The Guild also has the opportunity to stand up for the underserved by helping to educate public policymakers about the specific needs unique to LGBT individuals and their families.”
“I have no desire to make money,” he said. “One nice thing that Jim Struve helped instill in me is that organizations like the Guild kind of fill in the cracks between the ‘glossier’ organizations. I don’t think our goal is ever to be big. Our goal is to serve a niche that really is grass-roots. So he helped me recognize the value of grass-roots connections, because that is kind of the basis of therapy, if you think about it. It really is that one-on-one connection with people.
To learn more about the Therapists Guild and register for the Sept. 15 meeting, visit www.lgbtguild.com