Creating a safe therapeutic space through naming: psychodynamic work with traditional Arab LGBT clients

Najat Qushua, Teresa Ostler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


LGBT Arab clients who enter psychotherapy typically wish to change their sexual orientation. This article draws on writings by Winnicott and Ogden and on current discourse about sexuality in the Arab world to explore how LGBT Arab clients responded to initial phases of therapy with an Arab, traditional, psycho-dynamically trained female therapist. We focus specifically on the notions of true and false self, transitional space, and on role of naming in creating safe transitional therapeutic space where Arab, traditional LGBT clients came to express their unique thoughts and desires related to their non-heterosexual orientations. We also illustrate how clients came to share and experience ‘unlived’ parts of their sexual identities and describe common aspects of the transference and countertransference relationships. Change, experienced differently by clients and the therapist, was a central theme in the early transference and countertransference relationship. Names became an important port of entry and facilitated the creation of a safe transitional space with my clients. Words helped to humanise what had been unspeakable and unbearable experience and allowed clients to begin to openly accept and share the realities of their sexual orientations even within the confines of severe social and cultural demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Social Work Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020


  • LGBT Arab clients
  • naming
  • transitional space psychodynamic psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Drug guides


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating a safe therapeutic space through naming: psychodynamic work with traditional Arab LGBT clients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this