LGBTQ+ Support Groups Forming To Give ‘Safe Space’ For Youth, Parents
Newtown resident DDS Dobson-Smith is looking to offer their professional and personal insight to the local LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community in the form of two new support groups.
A LGBTQ+ Youth Support Group being formed is geared towards 12-18 years old. It is designed to be a safe and confidential peer group where members can share thoughts, feelings, resources, and support to one another. The second group is for parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth, to help empower, educate, and support them.
Dobson-Smith will facilitate both groups.
“I moved to Newtown in January, and it is really important to me that I play a part in the community, and I think the best way I can do that is to offer my skills and my experience,” they said.
Dobson-Smith is a licensed Marital & Family Therapy Associate and is a psychotherapy practitioner in Newtown.
“I’ve been a psychotherapist for nearly 15 years. I was licensed in the UK before I moved to the United States eight years ago,” they said. “I’m also a professor in psychology and teach graduate students who are learning to be psychotherapists themselves. And I am a member of the queer community and spent a couple years working in California in community mental health, particularly serving the LGBTQ community.”
Dobson-Smith is passionate about helping others and acknowledges that they would have appreciated these valuable resources when they were an adolescent.
“I would have loved to have found people who were like me, because it can be really lonely as a member of the LGBTQ community growing up ... It can be a really challenging time from a mental and emotional health point of view,” they said.
With that in mind, the youth support group focuses on being a place for the LGBTQ+ community to feel welcome and included.
“I really wanted to create the group for LGBTQ youth to provide a safe space where people can build community, friendships, and can also have a place where they can be seen and understood in ways they may not be seen and understood perhaps in their family home, at school, or in their friendship groups,” Dobson-Smith said.
Not only will there be time to share and discuss different topics, but depending on the day there may also be opportunities for activities, games, and art.
For the separate support group that focuses on parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth, it will be geared towards guiding them on their journey of better connecting with their loved one.
“In my psychotherapy practice, I often hear and work with parents whose children are experiencing coming out, exploring their gender, exploring their sexuality, and they really want to do the right thing by their children, but they don’t know how to do the right thing and are worried about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing,” they said.
Dobson-Smith wants the group to be an open environment where parents and caregivers can talk to one another, as well as use them as a resource to ask questions.
“For both groups, the want of each group will emerge based on the needs of the people who come,” Dobson-Smith added.
The support groups have not officially started and are in the beginning stages of gathering interest. The day it meets will depend on its participants.
The location, though, has been set. It will take place in person at Dobson-Smith and his husband Davis’s property in Newtown.
Dobson-Smith shared, “We have a guest house that I use, and we have converted into a retreat center. This is where my psychotherapy patients come, this is where we are able to offer reiki and reflexology … people can make a cup of tea or some coffee and spend some time talking and sharing. It’s a really lovely space.”
Their husband will join the group at times as a co-facilitator, who brings experience working with youth and parents as a principal at a school in California.
While it is not a closed group, and individuals will continue to be welcomed in, Dobson-Smith encourages people to attend consecutive sessions to gain the full benefits of the program.
They mentioned, “In terms of a fee, it will be on a donation basis. It is what people can afford and want to offer and are able to offer.”
Those interested in attending either support group can e-mail email@example.com.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.