Adolescence is that period between childhood and adulthood, when the adolescent is discovering his or her own identity and dealing with the transition. It is also a time of becoming more aware of sexuality and establishing patterns for future relationships. Those identifying as nonheterosexual i.e. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT), face even more challenges than their heterosexual counterparts.
One challenge is their health. Russell and Consolacion (2003) conducted a study on the topic of romance and emotional health of adolescents. The authors concluded that youth who had same-sex attractions and who were not in relationships showed increased measures of anxiety and depression. They also had more suicidal ideation than heterosexual youth. The dangers of smoking are well researched and documented. Easton, Jackson, Mowery, Comeau and Sell (2008) in their study concluded that same-sex and bisexual youth are at greater risk for tobacco use. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that increased stress level, mental health and other physical health problems are common among LGBT youth (CDC, 2011).
Ray (2006) in a study of homelessness among LGBT youth notes that they face a number of problems in additional to being homeless. They are at increased risk of mental health issues, high risk sexual behaviour to support themselves, substance abuse and victimisation.
Education is important and LGBT adolescents face challenges in this area. Many of them are likely to be runaways so their education suffers as they are absent from school for long periods. Himmelstein & Brückner (2011) noted that these young people were also at risk for being more severely punished at school and in the justice system. They are also victims of violence and discrimination at school, often being bullied, teased and harassed (“LGBT bullying” n.d.).
Counsellors working with adolescents who are LBGT must be sensitive to the...