LGBT Affirmative THERAPY Center

Airport Marina Counseling Service is excited to announce the launch of its new center, which will specialize in psychotherapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender folks and welcome all cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities.


The new center will make AMCS one of the few clinics in Los Angeles and the only one in the area specializing in services specifically geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) population.


“Our therapists are really well-informed and well-trained to give specific treatment to this community,” said Dr. Rachel Marks, a licensed clinical psychologist with over a decade of clinical and administrative experience, who will lead the center. “This is an underserved population, and there will always be the need for clinicians to understand the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA community. This is really important work.”


Unlike most clinics, AMCS will not limit the number of sessions provided to its clients.


“What really sets us apart is the longer-term model, which is unique,” Dr. Marks said. “Often, when using insurance or seeking services in a community agency setting, clients get a limited number of sessions, but at AMCS, we have the flexibility to provide longer-term treatment for our clients.”


Study after study shows LGBT Americans suffer from mental health disorders at rates far exceeding heterosexual people — depression strikes gay men at six times the rate of straight men; nearly half of transgender people encounter symptoms of anxiety and depression; lesbians and bisexual women also deal with higher rates of mental health struggles than their straight sisters, with bisexual women faring even worse than lesbians. LGB youth are four times more likely, and questioning youth three times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers; 41 percent of transgender people have attempted to end their lives.


Among the issues Dr. Marks anticipates people will seek treatment for include depression, anxiety, relationships, HIV, and coming out support. As is the case with all of its services, AMCS will offer its services on a sliding scale.


Dr. Marks said AMCS is partnering with Antioch University, which launched one of the nation’s first graduate psychology specializations devoted to affirmative psychology for LGBTQIA individuals over 10 years ago. Antioch is helping to provide student trainees to AMCS and working with the clinic to make sure its paperwork, intake methodology and public spaces are all affirmative, focusing on client comfort in working toward authenticity and self-acceptance regarding sexual orientation.


“It is important for us to be a safe, welcoming place for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify,” Dr. Marks said. “A lot of people say, ‘I want to talk to someone like me,’ and we do our best to make that connection. Maybe, they are suffering from depression as the result of their treatment in a very heterosexual world. They are constantly battling sigma and many wonder when it is safe to come out and to whom.”


“We are fortunate at AMCS that we can establish a center like this to both educate therapists in a way we think no one else can and, at the same time, serve a community that does not have a lot of places to get this kind of effective mental health counseling,” she said. “We treat the whole person, not just their sexual orientation or gender.” Dr. Marks added, “often there is an interplay between our upbringing, society and culture that has a large role in one’s ability to be their authentic selves.”


“We are incredibly fortunate to have someone with Dr. Marks’ skill and experience leading this new center for us,” said AMCE Executive Director Eden Garcia-Balis. “Not only is she the consummate professional, but she brings an enthusiasm, passion, and expertise to the field of affirmative therapy. We are thrilled to have her playing a leading role in this new center that will help serve such an underserved population and educate therapists in working with LGBTQIA individuals.”


Dr. Marks recently worked in community mental health as a Program Director, where she developed programs, supervised and trained staff using the recovery model of mental health focused on reducing stigma. She has a special history with AMCS as she was a former psychology intern at the clinic. In addition, Dr. Marks has a thriving private practice in which she specializes in helping her clients with issues around sexual orientation and gender identity.”