Bethesda practice provides safe environment for Maryland’s LGBTQIA+ youth

06/27/2022 | Samantha Foley

In today’s ever changing landscape, challenging and improving the standards for mental health care has been at the forefront of communities across the nation and here in Maryland. With mental health diagnoses and conditions on the rise among adults and teenagers, especially among those identifying as LGBTQIA+, Amanda and Stan Pezzanite set to work on creating a safe space for those in need of support. This cause is especially important to Amanda, who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community

DBT Maryland LLC , a mental health private practice located in Bethesda, has created a comfortable and inclusive environment for teens and adults to gain the tools and support necessary to “develop a life worth living,” as the Pezzanites say. The Pezzanites and their team are passionate about helping all people who struggle with mental health concerns, offering a wide array of equitable mental health services centered around the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT.

DBT combines aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy with principles focusing on mindfulness and acceptance and has been adapted to treat a wide range of mental health issues big and small. Treatments include weekly DBT skills group, individual therapy, phone coaching as needed between sessions, weekly consultation team meetings for therapists, and consultation for environmental factors as needed.

The team of therapists at DBT Maryland are all LGBTQIA+ affirming and have a wide range of experience working with clients who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As many as 60 percent of clients in DBT Maryland’s adolescent program identify as part of the community.The majority of clients that come to DBT Maryland struggle with suicidal ideation or behaviors, and many clients experience feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, impulsive behaviors, and distress or confusion around their identity. These issues are even more prevalent in clients that identify within the LGBTQIA+ community according to research .

The team uses the Biosocial Theory, which explains that factors such as having higher emotional sensitivity, and experiencing pervasive invalidation from social environments, as many in the LGBTQIA+ community do, can create problems in multiple areas of a client’s life. Repeated invalidation from peers, society and even family members over time can lead to overall mistrust of one’s own emotions, and a tendency to try to hide or avoid emotions. This is where DBT Maryland steps in, using this theory to provide proper and comprehensive treatment for clients and their families.

“As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I feel our society has come a long way in terms of being more educated and accepting, and still there is more improvement that can be made. In general, our society can send messages to our LGBTQIA+ youth that there is something wrong with them for just being who they are, which is extremely invalidating,” said Amanda Pezzanite, LCSW-C, program director and owner of DBT Maryland. “That invalidation can be pervasive and felt throughout a young person’s life in many ways. At DBT Maryland, we can be a safe place for these youth to be accepted and validated, sometimes for the first time in their lives.”

For some, invalidation from family or those we love can be the most painful. DBT Maryland requires that parents of adolescent clients also participate in the treatment process through working together in separate parent groups or multi-family groups, where parents can learn their own skills and coping mechanisms. Family therapy is also added as needed. The DBT Maryland team works hand in hand with clients and their families to quell feelings of inadequacy and emotional distrust by helping to build coping mechanisms and skill sets to fight against environmental stigmas and influences.

The main goal of these therapies is to help clients create a life that they feel is worth living and create a safe space for all clients that come to DBT Maryland for help. The organization works on acceptance in the face of biological and environmental factors, and breaks down the treatment process into a digestible and equitable practice for anyone who may need their services, also providing couples therapy, comprehensive DBT services for adults, multi-family skills groups, and telehealth appointments to any client in need.

The DBT Maryland team strives to create safe, equitable and effective treatment for mental health to anyone who needs it, including people of all identities or communities. The team breaks down barriers, leading clients to a life that is truly worth living.

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