Pamela de Santa


Family preservation is generally viewed in terms of a rather narrow practice definition. However, it's underlying philosophy offers a strong framework for building a positive, nonbiased helping alliance with lesbian clients in a therapeutic setting. The family preservation philosophy offers a unique heuristic for helping professionals to work with lesbians. Family preservation values teach that the therapist must start with the client's reality, recognize the particular needs of that client, and use the client's strengths in treatment. Also inherent in this perspective is respect and sensitivity to the lesbian client's "cultural context, experience, and history" (Family Preservation Institute, 1995). In other words, in the family preservation philosophy there is no assumption of heterosexuality in the therapeutic relationship; rather there is an assumption of unconditional positive regard. Further, clients are engaged in a dialogue and encouraged to name the challenges they encounter in their own words, from their own perspective. All of these principles will help empower lesbian clients. Lesbians may avoid traditional mental health services in times of need, preferring to depend on alternative services or friendship support networks. The choice not to seek help through mainstream agencies may be based on previous negative experience or on an assumption of the homophobic attitudes which are often inherent in such services. Traditional services are usually based on the medical model. Services based on the family preservation philosophy, however, have the capability of creating therapeutic relationships in which there is no assumption of heterosexuality, where the lesbian client is respected and viewed as a whole, healthy individual.