Being gay was diagnosable as a mental disorder until 1973.
Now, just over 40 years later, Anais Plasketes studies LGBT-affirmative therapy at Antioch University. She puts her studies into practice at Colors, a free Antioch counseling clinic specifically for LGBT youth (under 25). An Antioch senior, Plasketes is one of eight counselors at the clinic, located at 3435 West Temple St. at Hoover Street in the McArthur Park area.
“I was drawn to Colors immediately,” Plasketes said. “It’s really important for them [LGBT youth] to have a safe space.”
Clients may turn to Colors for help dealing in a wide range of issues—from depression to anxiety to struggles with coming out—but regardless of the reason, Plasketes thinks it’s important for them to meet people who “mirror” them in sharing their identities (counselors come out as LGBT to clients).
“The main goal is to affirm their identity,” she said. If they’re struggling to accept their identities, Plasketes said, counselors work to help shift their understanding so they realize that “society is heteronormative, and it’s not me that’s the problem.”
One aspect of that work is educating clients about LGBT mythology and history, something close to the heart of Douglas Sadownick, head of the LGBT specialization program at Antioch.
A longtime presence in the LGBT community, Sadownick says he’s shifted between looking outward (toward the broader movement) and looking inward (toward the psyche).
Formerly a New Yorker, Sadownick was involved with AIDS organization ACT Up. He moved to L.A. with then-boyfriend Tim Miller and helped launch Highways, a performance art space.
In the mid-90s, Sadownick experienced a revelation. He was deeply unhappy. His focus shifted inward, toward the “gay psyche,” the trauma LGBT people experience in an unaccepting society, and how to transfer that toward wellness and empowerment.
Young LGBT people in particular often must grapple with a lot. Many are questioning or coming into their own as LGBT people. Their families may reject them or may face a journey toward accepting them. And LGBT students face disproportionate rates of bullying and harassment in schools.
Sadownick, who has led Antioch’s LGBT specialization since 2006, says that the LGBT-affirmative therapy taught in the program (a masters in clinical psychology program) has “a slightly different energy” that involves more give and take than traditional therapy.
Sadownick hopes that Colors, which opened its doors in 2012, will help give youth clients an enhanced understanding of what it means to be LGBT.” Coming out, Sadownick says, is just the beginning. Deeper levels are possible.
“We care about the world. We care about our place in the world,” he said.
Colors offers individual, couples, family and group counseling. There is currently a waiting list.
In addition to operating the Colors clinic, the LGBT specialization program hosts cultural events. For example, lesbian author Donna Minkowitz will visit Antioch on Tuesday for a program featuring her in conversation with Sadownick.
The Colors clinic and Antioch’s LGBT specialization program will share a booth at the L.A. Pride festival, which will be held in West Hollywood in June.