Zoe Steinfield, an openly transgender queer woman, has joined the Affirmations team as the LGBTQ+ community center’s first full-time behavioral health program manager.
“It’s kind of a dream come true to work as a clinical social worker in a position directly serving trans and queer people,” Steinfield tells Pride Source.
A licensed MSW (Master’s of Social Work) and certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor, Steinfield will draw on her unique skill set and years of related experience to provide a host of specific benefits to the community. In addition to her clinical accolades, she is experienced with letter-writing for gender-affirming health care services, trauma-focused care, suicide prevention and counseling interviewing methods.
Executive Director Dave Garcia says that in the past, Affirmations has partnered with local universities to provide therapy to the LGBTQ+ community — an arrangement that has benefited participants, but hasn’t always been the best fit for the Affirmations community at large. Hiring a dedicated behavioral health program manager, he says, will expand the center’s therapy benefits in a more nuanced way.
“It’s always been a great partnership, but it had its challenges,” he explains. Because the universities provided help through graduate student therapists, it meant that Affirmations wasn’t able to reach LGBTQ+ youth in the community, due to legal regulations. “And, if it’s a very acute case,” he says, “they’re not experienced enough to provide therapy for severe cases.”
Affirmations’ Kathleen Redmon, director of programs, says she is excited about bringing on a full-time licensed therapist to see clients and manage the center’s expanding behavioral health program. “We can provide the kind of inclusive, accessible and holistic care that our community deserves,” she says. “Zoe brings valuable experience to this role and I’m thrilled that she’s joining our team to help continue to grow the services we bring to the diverse and vibrant populations we serve.”
Before joining the Affirmations team, Steinfield provided therapy at organizations including the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, Behavioral Health division of Child and Family Charities (CFC) and Gateway Youth Services of CFC.
Steinfield’s new position is unique from much of her past work. She says it’s more than a job — it’s personal. As a clinical social worker and openly trans woman, she says she wants to offer the support she wanted when she first came out.
“At the time, I think it was really rare for an actual trans person to hold a position [like mine],” she adds. “And thankfully, that’s starting to change, and I’m really happy to be a part of that change…I think it’s helpful to go to someone that you know gets it and is connected in some way to your community.”
Steinfield adds that as society gets more comfortable with the youth transitioning earlier, there’s a greater need for the therapy she offers. She says, “It’s really important that we meet folks where they are at,” and that minors and families that want to be supportive now have support through Affirmations.
In her new role, Steinfield will provide direct counseling, supervise master-level students in clinical practice, oversee care coordination and ensure all community members receive affirming and affordable counseling services and referrals from the center.
“As far as I know, I’m the only openly trans person on staff, and that is needed,” she continues. “[Because trans lives are] a huge portion of the community that we serve — and in many ways face a lot of consequences of societal stigmas in the wider communities — I think it’s important for me to be here and provide that perspective in addition to seeing clients.”