Diversity Center of Oklahoma: Serving gender diverse needs

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

by Hayden Smith
Staff Writer

Of all the outpatient mental health treatment centers in Oklahoma, only one is state accredited for its service to the LGBTQ community.

The Diversity Center of Oklahoma, located in Expressions Community Center on 39th Street, prides itself in providing mental health services specially geared towards transgender and gender diverse people and their families.

“Some of my LGBT clients were telling me stories of how they hadn’t gotten appropriate services from other therapists and how they were actually paying therapists and educating them about our culture,” says Kelley Blair, the executive director of the center.

“I say our culture because the LGBT community, we have our own culture. When you go in and you have to explain your culture to the therapist, it actually slows down the therapeutic process and it’s frustrating. It really makes a difference when your therapist already understands the process and they already understand the culture.”

This is why the Diversity Center, along with having two licensed therapists who are also members of the LGBTQ community, is also an intern site for both OU and OSU graduate counseling programs.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to start training these therapists before they get out of school,” says Blair. “In graduate programs, for the most part, it’s not a part of their core curriculum to have any official training when it comes to gender diverse populations, which is really a shame.”

Currently there are two interns providing services, with at least six more hoping to start in the fall.

Despite its growing recognition as a vital community resource and its state accreditation as an unparalleled agency, the center receives no state funding.

In fact, the only time the Diversity Center has received any funding was early March 2017 when the University of Oklahoma’s Triangle Fraternity held a “Pie the Frat Guy” fundraiser, raising about five thousand dollars for the organization.

The Diversity Center of Oklahoma offers inclusive individual, family, group and couples counseling, including polyamorous couples and premarital couples. At the time of writing, it serves approximately 70 clients with its small staff of four.

The center also hosts a gender diverse support group, affiliated with Transcendence International, as well as a support group for significant others, friends, family and allies. Both are hosted every first and third Monday evening of the month at Expressions Community Center. Meetings frequently feature guest speakers educating on transgender and gender diverse issues.

Plans have been made to create more support groups, including a general LGBTQ support group for evenings on the second and fourth Mondays of each month and an after-school LGBTQ youth group weekly on Mondays at 4:30 p.m.

For information about the Diversity Center of Oklahoma, call (405) 252-7372 or you may visit their Facebook page. The initial screening is free and the Diversity Center offers sliding scale pay for clients in need of assistance.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – May 8, 2017 @ 11:20 a.m.