When Dr. Margaret Nichols founded the Institute for Personal Growth in 1983, our original mission was to provide therapy by and for gay men and lesbians. At the time, although homosexuality had been officially "declassified" as a mental illness, most practicing therapists had been trained to believe that being gay was a disease, that gay people were more neurotic than heterosexuals and that with enough motivation homosexuality could be "cured".
Consequently, psychotherapists did untold damage to their lesbian and gay clients in the guise of "helping them". As a publicly open, self-identified lesbian psychologist, Dr. Nichols knew first-hand how damaging mainstream therapy could be.
People lost custody of their children because mental health professionals testified that their sexuality made them unfit parents. Adolescents were often put in psychiatric hospitals when their parents discovered they were gay. Behavior therapists applied electric shock to the fingertips of gay men in order to "decondition" their sexual arousal.
People unsure of their sexual orientation were warned against homosexual activities and led to believe they could eradicate their same-sex desires. Dr. Nichols founded her practice as an alternative to this oppressive treatment, to provide a safe, affirmative place for lesbians and gay men to get help for their problems. Over the years IPG has expanded its mission to include a focus on bisexuals, trangendered people and other sexual minorities.
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In 2011, Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s premier LGBTQ rights and advocacy organization, honored the Institute for Personal Growth with its Legacy Award for our outstanding track record of service to the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ/Other Sexual Minorities
IPG started as an alternative to the ignorance of most mainstream therapists. In 1983 we were among the first practices in the country to offer counseling and therapy by and for gay people. Over the years we defined a primary part of our mission as service to all oppressed sexual and gender variant people. We've never strayed from our committment to lesbian, gay and bisexual clients and we are proud that we serve more transgender people than any other center in New Jersey, including transgender teens and gender variant children. And we are pioneers in the sex therapy profession in our work with the BDSM/kink/leather community as well as with people with polyamorous lifestyles.
Many people want a counselor or therapist who shares their background and who will understand them from first-hand experience. Others merely need to know that their therapist is accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity and respects them as an equal. More than half our therapists and counselors are non-heterosexual and all of our therapists/counselors are knowledgeable and fully affirmative of minority lifestyles.
It's nice to not spend your valuable time educating your therapist about your lifestyle, or talking about your sexuality because your therapist or counselor considers it to be a problem. You may not be seeking therapy because of your sexual or gender identity, but it's good to know it will only be an issue in therapy if you want it to be.
Please read the following topics for more information: