Hi, I'm Allen Pittinger-Dunham, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), Certified Addictions Counselor-II (CAC-II) and a Masters Addictions Counselor (MAC), all licensed in the District of Columbia.
I have experience working as a Therapist, Diagnostician, Clinician Manager, Program Director (LGBTQIA+ & Substance Use Disorder [SUD] Programs) and Clinical Director with Core Service Agencies (CSAs) licensed by District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Services (DC DBH).
I created Safe Space Our Place® (SSOP) specifically with the goal of being DC's most comprehensive Behavioral Health Private Practice to serve the needs for all with a specialization of the needs of the LGBTQIA+ Community. I provide individual, couples and group therapy.
I offer you a chance here to look inside a window into my personal history so that you can begin to get a sense of who I am today.
When I was 9-years of age, I knew that I was different…I had emotions that I wasn't quite sure how to handle...I had feelings for other boys…But I knew that I had to keep this to myself...Then puberty hit and I began to act on my feelings...Yet still, I knew I had to keep it to myself...Both the religion I was raised with as well as my family made it clear in no uncertain terms that what I was feeling and the emotions I had were like “those people” and both my feelings, emotions and actions were wrong and as a result they were "bad" so much so that horrible things would happen to them and myself...So I attempted to hide myself from the world and ultimately from myself...I just knew I couldn’t be one of “those people"...But deep down I knew that I was one of “those people"...this made it even more of a task to keep it from everyone and even harder to keep from acknowledging the truth to myself...I continued to live with my secret all the while lying to myself...This wound continued to fester and I grew to hate myself age a very early age...I hated my very existence and I would pray daily, “God, strike me dead if..." Each time I acted on my desires and I lived, the hate would grow larger and the wound hurt more...But I knew I had to keep it from the world and to continue to lie to myself.
Time passed and my internalized homophobia grew...The actions of acting upon my desires and hating myself continued to increase...There were times that I felt so alone, abandoned and lost...Yet still I knew I had to keep it from the world and to continue to lie to myself...During this time, while in college, I fell in love with my best friend who just so happened to be a woman...Yes, there was a part of me that thought that if I could reveal my secret to someone that I loved and she in turn loved me then I was redeemable...I finally mustered up the strength to tell her even though I was scared to death...What would she think?...Would she turn and run?...We had difficult conversations...We married...We had two beautiful children...During the eleven-years (11-years) of my marriage, I continued to try and live with my secret and lie to myself...Then came the day when she told me that I was "gay"...I felt such stigma and shame and my internalized homophobia agreed with her statement and fanned the fires of my stigma and shame.
It wasn’t until I was in my first same-gender relationship at thirty-four (34) years of age, while working with a trained therapist that I finally whispered the words, “I’m gay”. It was in that moment the weight of the world seemed to lift from my shoulders. During the twenty-three (23) years of my life between knowing that I was different to whispering my truth, I suffered so much mental trauma that I knew I had some work to do to finally be comfortable in my own skin and coming out was only my first step. I began my personal work which confronted the stigma and shame often associated with being gay; I began to feel progress. Then at thirty-six (36) years of age, I tested positive for HIV. In that moment, I felt that all of my accomplishments meant nothing. The circle of light and acceptance that I had once felt growing larger around me shrank to a tiny dot and the voices that spoke of stigma, shame and internalized homophobia began to drive me back into the darkness and away from self-acceptance. It would take both professional and personal work for me to regain and exceed the previous level of self-acceptance I had achieved. Today, I am living my life with no stigma and no shame. To quote James Brown, the "Father of Soul", "Whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now I feel good, I knew that I would, now so good, so good, I got you..."
Through my personal and professional life, I have extensive experience offering therapy regarding LGBTQIA+ issues, Heterosexual issues, dealing with addiction issues, working with couples in therapy, trauma, anger management, grief, adjustment issues, mood disorders, severe mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and behavioral-health comorbidities. I am trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy and provide a trauma-informed approach while incorporating psychoanalytic, feminist, humanistic, and other modalities that allow me to adapt to the needs of my clients. I alter my approach based off each individual and focus on treating a person not a disorder. I am Person-Centered, meaning that you have a voice and that voice will be heard while working with me.
My approach is eclectic in that I view therapy as a collaborative process between the client leading the way and me serving as a guide. At times, I may incorporate humor at my own experiences to foster positive change. I believe that developing a trusting relationship between a therapist and client is the key to a successful therapeutic outcome. I am a hands-on active therapist who is always ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with you. Your job is to work me out of a job. One day you will find that you are stronger than you were just the day before and you can stand firm without the internal/external pressures of life affecting you; that is when you have worked me out of a job. But know this, when that day happens, and it will, my door will never be locked behind you; if life begins to set you off balance, all you need do, is reach out to me.
My goal is that you’ll find that our sessions provide a warm, nonjudgmental atmosphere that is a safe space, one that you will be able to relate to as our place where you can speak freely about yourself and your experiences. The feedback I provide will give you insight into what you identify as the issues troubling you. Through talk therapy, my aim is to offer you tools to solve your ongoing problems and to be better able to solve future ones independently.