Spotlight on KIP Fellow, Joie DeRitis, LMSW

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“What made you want to be a therapist and what brought you to KIP to practice?”

Joie: I actually think everything that made me want to be a therapist is also what I’ve found at KIP, which is pretty awesome. I think that far too often people living at the intersections of marginalized identities and experiences are made to feel that they are unworthy of love and connection, and I’ve always strongly believed in the healing power of human relationships. The incredible thing about working at KIP is that authenticity is encouraged, and being a non-binary transgender clinician, this can be harder to come by. The therapists at KIP are dynamic, passionate, and warm; they are committed to continuing to learn from and grow with one another, and they recognize the importance of showing up to our weekly meetings with a ton of compassion, vulnerability, and love. This exciting approach to therapy can feel unique, and it permeates the ways in which our therapists connect with their clients. It’s an awesome team that gets to do awesome work together. I’m honestly very thankful to be here.

 

“You’ve done quite a bit of work in the LGBTQ community, what has that been like?”

Joie: You know, doing work with LGBTQ people has been both challenging and incredibly beautiful. Challenging because sometimes there is insurmountable pain and societal barriers that can feel immovable, beautiful because there are so many brilliant stories of resilience and strength. I’ve previously worked as a counselor at the Ali Forney Center, an LGBTQ youth homeless shelter; I’ve also been the coordinator and trainer for The Trevor Project’s national twenty-four-seven suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for youth for almost three years now. In all my work, I’ve always struck by how much people have survived. I’ve learned that survival can sometimes be hard, and the best thing we can do as therapists is hold space for our clients to do the hard work of surviving best.

 

“One of your specializations is in working with transgender and gender non-conforming people, can you tell me more about that commitment?”

Joie: Transgender and gender non-conforming people experience violence and oppression in this world in very unique ways – ways that are often times not recognized as traumatic, and these experiences can be farther impacted by the ways that these identities intersect with other marginalized identities. I believe that in order for therapy to work, the therapist needs to be prepared to create enough space for the client to show up as the realest version of themselves. I care deeply about working with transgender and gender non-confirming people because I care deeply about folks feeling safe, seen, heard, and cared for in ways that feel affirming of them, their identities, and their experiences.

 

“What are some of your thoughts on the intersections between mental health and the LGBTQ community?”

Joie: When you asked that question, one word kind of immediately came to mind for me – loneliness. Now, I think that sometimes we think loneliness means that someone is physically alone, but I think it’s much more complex and nuanced than that. I think that not being seen can be lonely. I think that being made to feel inauthentic can be lonely. I think that being misgendered or otherwise invalidated can be lonely. I’m certainly not saying that all LGBTQ people feel lonely or are isolated (in fact many LGBTQ people live beautifully connected lives), but I do think that LGBTQ people can feel lonely in a lot of different ways and for some unique reasons. We know that LGBTQ people have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts – and when these things are experienced in isolation they can be even more challenging. That’s where relationships come in – whether with a therapist or anyone else in your life – relationships can be so transformative.

 

“What are some of your dreams and goals for your work with KIP over the next year?”

I’m most excited that one of my dreams is becoming a reality – that we’ll be starting a low-cost group for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the new year. I’m hoping that this group can really help folks in New York to feel more connected and less alone.

 

“If you weren’t a therapist, what would you hope you’d be doing?”

I love this question! (laughs) I actually love poetry and drag so I’d probably want to be a touring performance poet or a famous androgynous drag performer. (laughs) I think I’ll stick with being a therapist though.

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