Case Study of Eduardo –
Laura is a counselor at a small, private, progressive, and predominantly White university in the northeastern United States. Laura is a White, straight, U.S.-born cisgender woman of Dutch descent who graduated from an Ivy League university. She has been a mental health practitioner for the past 8 years and considers herself to be an effective and competent clinician. For the past 2 months, Laura has been working with Eduardo, a 19-year-old cisgender man, a freshman at the university, who initially presented with a depressed mood, inability to concentrate, and general anhedonia. Eduardo is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic; he was 5 years old when he arrived in the United States with his family. He grew up in the Southeast, which he considers home and where his family still lives. He is the eldest of four siblings (María, Carmen, and Lissette are 14, 12, and 6, respectively) and the first one in his family to go to college. Eduardo’s parents, who are extremely proud of their “college boy,” worked multiple jobs while he was growing up and now own a small neighborhood restaurant. Eduardo works there during school breaks and is studying business so that he can take over the management of the restaurant and allow his parents to retire. In the course of treatment, Eduardo discloses that for the past 6 months he has been having erotic encounters with men. He discounts these encounters as “just playing” and, after a recollection of every encounter, he tells Laura about his plans to get married to a woman and to have a large family. He tells Laura that he is not gay, because he is “very masculine” (un tigre) and always the “top” during sex, which he considers comparable to having sex with a woman. Lately, Eduardo has been talking a lot about one particular young man, Clive, with a lot of tenderness and affection. Eduardo talks about Clive wanting to go on “real dates” and finds these requests “ridiculous,” as he does not date men. At the same time, Laura notes Eduardo’s worsening mood and apathy turning into passive suicidal ideation. She is familiar with research linking closeted homosexuality with negative psychological consequences. Since coming out is empirically correlated with improved mental and general health functioning, Laura is convinced that Eduardo’s worsening mental health is related to his inability to come out and decides that she will assist Eduardo with this process. Laura’s therapeutic goals are not easy to implement, however. No matter how gently she brings it up, Eduardo becomes angry and, at times, leaves sessions prematurely. At one point, Laura shares her experience of being the only nonlegacy student among her friends at her Ivy League university in order to show Eduardo that she knows what it means to feel different and not always accepted. She also shares the story of her gay cousin, who came out about 10 years ago. She states that she knows how hard it is to come out, but she imagines that things must be so much easier for gay people now than they were for her cousin. Laura’s disclosure is met with a blank stare from Eduardo. One day, Laura looks around her office and notices that none of the books or pamphlets she has available relate to “gay issues.” She makes an effort and brings in pamphlets advertising the university’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Student Union. At Eduardo’s next session, she asks him if he would be willing to go with her to the organization’s open house the next week. Eduardo’s eyes well up with tears. He says, “I cannot believe you. You have no idea who I really am.” He storms out of the room and does not come back for his next three scheduled appointments.
- What assumptions does Laura appear to be making about the etiology of Eduardo’s symptoms?
- What are some of the important intersectional issues (in terms of gender, sexuality, and ethnocultural background) at play for Eduardo? What are some of the important intersectional issues at play for Laura?
- What sexual orientation microaggressions can you identify in Laura’s interactions with Eduardo?