SALIS Newsletter: Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists – An International Association

Book review:
Fundamentals of LGBT Substance Use Disorders, written by Michael Shelton

In Fundamentals of LGBT Substance Use Disorders: Multiple Identities, Multiple Challenges, Michael Shelton continues and expands the classic work of Emily B. McNally and Dana G. Finnegan, Counseling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Substance Abusers: Dual Identities. This contemporary and thorough resource may be helpful for anyone who wishes to better understand LGBT substance use and more sensitively and effectively support LGBT individuals in treatment, recovery, and counseling settings. Whether you have never worked with LGBT clients or have considerable experience, this book has something for you.

Although LGBT and non-LGBT individuals are obviously more similar than different, the need for this resource and its potential utility are apparent. We are reminded early in the book that, until 1973, “homosexuality” was pathologized as a “personality disturbance” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. One can imagine how this establishment-endorsed idea has affected our society as a whole, and LGBT people in particular. In addition, specialized treatment for substance use/abuse/dependence for LGBT individuals has been seriously lacking, even though early and recent studies suggest higher rates of substance use and related negative consequences for the LGBT population.

Shelton synthesizes current research and evidence-based practices and promotes principles of affirmative, trauma-informed, and culturally competent intervention into a well-organized and user-friendly training tool and reference for clinicians, treatment agencies, and others. The book’s three main sections offer solid, often enlightening information. The first section, “An Overview of LGBT Substance Use,” describes early LGBT substance use research and empirical flaws, illuminates more recent study findings related to general and LGBT risk factors and important social processes, and concludes with general principles and approaches to LGBT substance use treatment. The second section, “LGBT-Specific Substance Use Patterns,” delves into common challenges encountered by transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay individuals, and presents practical treatment suggestions at agency and client levels. The third section, “Intersecting Identities,” addresses the confluences of LBGT, age/stage-of-life, family, and residential environments.

Each chapter is organized to enhance understanding and learning, and to help readers best use the time that they have. Summaries and overviews focus attention on key themes and details. Case studies begin most sections and help to contextualize the evidence-based information that follows. Complexities, challenges and treatment recommendations related to LGBT experiences, relationships, and identities are thoroughly discussed. Guidelines, key terms and definitions, and discussion questions round out the learning experience.

This book is ideally suited for students, clinicians, and administrators in general, and for LGBT-focused clinics and treatment programs.

Reviewed by Sandra Radin, PhD