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Dec 2016 by PCI College

Martin Kitterick Award 2016

The 2016 winner of the Martin Kitterick Award - Simon Forsyth


In May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by
popular vote. This milestone is reflective of much-increased social acceptance towards gay and lesbian people, yet the fact remains that homophobic attitudes and various forms of discrimination are still extremely common. Irish gay people have been raised in a typically heteronormative society and are likely to have internalised many negative images and beliefs towards their sexuality. This is especially true for older generations, raised when homosexual acts were still illegal in this country. Therefore, the vast majority of Irish gay people are also well-versed in the art of hiding one’s true identity and ‘passing’ as heterosexual. I propose that these experiences correlate well with the Jungian concepts of Persona and Shadow – the former, a mask we wear to negotiate with society; the latter, a storeroom for all the aspects of ourselves that we deem shameful and unfit for public view. The essay explores this idea from both general psychotherapeutic and specifically Irish perspectives, in the hope of offering counsellors a complementary lens through which to view the experiences of their gay and lesbian clients. Traditional outlooks on homosexuality within the school of analytical psychology are appraised, and the core tenets of modern validation-based models such as gay affirmative therapy are presented. Three key areas of gay experience, namely homophobia, assimilation, and coming out, are considered in-depth, with a range of sub-issues and therapeutic interventions explored for each. Finally, a five-stage model of gay and lesbian development grounded in the aforementioned concepts of persona and shadow is suggested. The essay ultimately argues that though Irish society has changed largely for the better in terms of gay rights, psychotherapists working with gay and lesbian clients still need to be acutely aware of the unique issues they face in their daily lives, as well as past challenges that may continue to inform their mental wellbeing.

View PDF of full essay HERE

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