Therapist Insights: How to Integrate the "Queer Cheer" Book into Your Practice

Originally published at: Therapist Insights: How to Integrate the "Queer Cheer" Book into Your Practice -

Author: By Dr. Chelse Song (they/she)

As a clinician working with LGBTQ+ youth, I often seek resources to help my clients navigate their identities and challenges. Queer Cheer: Activities, Advice, and Affirmations for LGBTQ+ Teens is a book that stands out in this regard. It’s a comprehensive guide that addresses the unique experiences and needs of queer teens, offering support and practical advice. In my detailed review, I provide a balanced perspective, highlighting the book’s strengths and areas where it could be improved. My chapter-by-chapter analysis focuses on how this book can be utilized in individual and group therapy settings. While Pride Month may be over, supporting queer youth should be a daily commitment, and this book is a valuable resource in that ongoing effort.

Chapter 1: Identity

This chapter is a treasure trove of affirming content. I loved the quotes from real teens about choosing their names, which normalize focusing on the positive aspects of identity rather than emphasizing deadnaming. It’s refreshing to see deadnaming treated as a minor footnote, which helps shift the focus to the creative and affirming aspects of identity.

One standout suggestion in this chapter was creating a character sheet describing oneself and one’s identity. I often encourage my young adult clients to use the Dungeons & Dragons Background Info guide, so this suggestion fits my style of therapy. Including a similar template for teen clients would be highly beneficial.

The page dedicated to “you don’t have to come out” is particularly impactful. This often-ignored point is essential for young people not ready to come out. For support groups, this should be one of the first pages read.

The Spirituality section is another highlight. It provides great insight for therapists who might feel uncomfortable discussing spirituality with queer clients. Overall, this chapter is well-rounded and has no significant areas needing improvement.

Chapter 2: Helpful Habits

While self-care books can sometimes set unrealistic expectations, Queer Cheer attempts to balance “don’t push yourself” with practical well-being tips. The page on suicide page felt a bit clunky, and I would recommend discussing this content with clients in session rather than assigning it as reading material. This approach applies to most of this chapter – it’s better suited for guided, in-session work rather than clinical homework.

Chapter 3: Confidence

As a former cheerleader, I found the “be your own cheerleader” advice a bit much. The introduction to this chapter didn’t resonate with my personal experience or with the queer and neurodivergent youth I work with, who often see through overly positive rhetoric.

Instead, I would emphasize the “Queerys” – questions encouraging reflection and exploration. This chapter can be useful when adapted to focus on individual reflection rather than prescriptive advice. Clinicians may gravitate towards these prompts so that clients can journal or ponder outside of the session and bring insights into the session.

Chapter 4: Relationships

This chapter is a goldmine for therapists working with relational and family systems. It’s accessible and can be used in structured settings and on the fly. The “Traditions for Found Family” section is particularly valuable, providing practical ways to build and cement relationships post-pandemic.

One caution when working with this section: boundary-setting advice must be tailored to minors under 18, who often don’t have complete control over their family involvement. Adopting a harm-reduction model is crucial here, balancing self-compassion with the reality of their situations.

Chapter 5: School/Educational Environment

One minor critique: the blue background color makes the text hard to read, especially for clients with learning differences. It may be best to read aloud with the client or simply summarize this section in session.

Still, emphasizing LGBTQ history beyond well-known figures like Harvey Milk is a game-changer. It’s crucial for young people to learn that “we have always been here.”

The authors also wisely avoid promoting the “college is the only path” narrative, which can be harmful. However, I’d like to see more guidance on discerning misinformation online. Clinicians should ensure clients can access the book’s resource list for school and learning.

Chapter 6: Our Community

The advice to “avoid negative people” isn’t always feasible or desirable. Instead, I would stress that there are no “bad people, just bad behavior,” and trust must be earned. However, the “mute, block, report internet bullies” page is spot-on.

The Activism section is another highlight, particularly for youth feeling hopeless about the state of the world. Volunteering can be incredibly empowering, and this chapter provides excellent starting points.

Chapter 7: Success and Future

Listing successful queer CEOs is important, even for those of us who are anti-capitalist, as it shows that being out doesn’t have to hinder one’s career. The activities in this chapter, like “three buckets” and “shadow searching,” are fantastic tools for helping queer youth envision their futures. Additionally, emphasizing failure as a part of growth is a valuable lesson for all ages.

Queer Cheer is a comprehensive and insightful guide that offers a wealth of resources for LGBTQIA2S+ youth and the therapists who support them. Each chapter provides practical advice, activities that can be adapted for both individual and group settings, and “rainbow affirmations” for those who engage in them, making it an invaluable tool in promoting the well-being and resilience of queer teens.

Looking ahead, If the authors decide to make a second version or a companion workbook, they could enhance its utility by including more concrete examples and templates, such as a character sheet for identity exploration and a more detailed guide for discerning misinformation online. Additionally, addressing readability issues for clients with learning differences and expanding on harm-reduction strategies in family dynamics could significantly improve its accessibility and effectiveness.

Future editions could also benefit from including activities focused on safety planning, which is crucial for queer youth navigating hostile environments. Career development sections could introduce the concept of mentorship or age-appropriate networking strategies to help queer teens find supportive role models in their fields of interest.

Overall, Queer Cheer sets a solid foundation for supporting queer youth in therapy, and I look forward to seeing how it can evolve in future editions with even more practical tools and activities to support the diverse needs of LGBTQ+ teens.

Unlock the potential of Queer Cheer: Activities, Advice, and Affirmations for LGBTQ+ Teens in your therapy practice today! Empower LGBTQ+ youth with affirming content and practical advice. Get your copy now and start making a difference!

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