When it comes to therapy, no therapist is one size fits all, but this is especially the case when you’re talking about LGBTQIA+ mental health. Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community brings a unique set of challenges, and the best way to address this is by seeking out LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy.
What is LGBTQIA+ Friendly Therapy?
While a cisgender, heterosexual therapist who typically works with heterosexual clients may be the perfect fit for a cisgender heterosexual man, they might not be a great match for someone in the LGBTQIA+ community. That’s why it’s crucial for LGBTQIA+ people to find a LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist.
LGBTQIA+ folks face a slew of struggles that some therapists might not understand like discrimination, coming out, dysphoria, and more. So, it can be a game-changer for someone in the LGBTQIA+ community to find a therapist who is a part of the community themselves, or at least works extensively with the LGBTQIA+ community.
Affirming therapy is one of the key aspects of LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy. Basically, affirming therapy is when a therapist affirms or validates a client’s LGBTQIA+ identity, empowering them to embrace their gender identity and sexual orientation rather than trying to fight or change it. This is helpful whether you’re out and proud or if you’re newly questioning your sexual or gender identity.
Additionally, LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy means the therapist should have no judgement or bias against the LGBTQIA+ community, and they should be well-informed about common issues faced by folks in the community.
The Importance of Therapy for the LGBTQIA+ Community
There’s a link between sexual orientation, gender identity, and mental wellbeing. The statistics surrounding LGBTQIA+ mental health are sobering. Adults in the LGBTQIA+ community are at least twice as likely to have a mental health condition than heterosexual adults, and transgender adults are about four times as likely to have a mental health condition than cisgender people. Even more alarming, a survey amongst transgender people found that a whopping 40% of the respondents had attempted suicide before.
The numbers make it clear: The LGBTQIA+ community needs proper mental health care to address these problems. Not only do they need therapy, they need LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy for the most effective comprehensive care. Every member of the LGBTQIA+ community seeking therapy deserves an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist who really gets them and the unique stressors they face.
The Process of Finding an LGBTQIA+ Friendly Therapist
Luckily, the internet makes finding an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist simple. You have a few options for finding a provider who offers LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy:
- Google searches: A simple search for “LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist” or “affirming therapy” plus your location will help you find the sites of various therapists who might be a fit for you.
- Ask your local LGBTQIA+ center: Your local LGBTQIA+ center is a hub of helpful resources, and it’s likely they have some recommendations for great LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy providers. Not sure where the nearest LGBTQIA+ center is to you? Use this location finder.
- Use online databases: Databases such as PsychologyToday.com allow you to filter based on insurance, location, specialties, and even the sexual orientation of the provider. This is super helpful if you want a therapist who is LGBTQIA+ themselves.
Here are some qualifications to look out for once you come across the sites or profiles of therapists.
Be sure to choose a licensed therapist: When searching for the right fit for LGBTQIA+ counseling, you want to make sure you select a qualified licensed therapist or psychologist.
Keep in mind that therapists are licensed within their state, so it’s important you look for therapists in the same state as you so they can legally treat you.
Look for client specializations that fit your needs: When searching for an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist, make sure you check their profile or website to see if they mention specializing in LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy and affirming therapy. If a therapist is an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist, it’s very likely they’ll publicize this.
Find a therapist who’s part of the LGBTQIA+ community: While it isn’t necessary for an LGBTQIA+ person to have an LGBTQIA+ therapist, some prefer it. There are definitely perks that come along with this. An LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist who’s part of the community themselves will have firsthand experience dealing with something similar to what you’re dealing with. You won’t have to put in the emotional labor to educate them about the issues you face – they’ll understand from their own experience. Additionally, you might find that you’re simply more comfortable opening up about LGBTQIA+ issues to someone who is LGBTQIA+ themselves. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Initial call: Most therapists will offer a free phone consultation before you decide to work with them. This opportunity is a great chance to get a better feel for the therapist’s personality and their approach to therapy. Use the initial call as your time to ask questions and make sure they’re an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist. You may want to ask:
- Do you specialize in LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy?
- Do you specialize in affirming therapy?
- Are you a member of the LGBTQIA+ community yourself?
- How many years of experience do you have providing LGBTQIA+ counseling?
Aside from the specific questions related to LGBTQIA+ mental health providers, you should also ask questions related to the type of therapy provided and mental health conditions they treat.
How Does an LGBTQIA+ Friendly Therapist Help?
Having a good LGBTQIA+ friendly and affirming therapist can make a big difference in your life. Some qualities of a good LGBTQA+ mental health provider include:
- Being knowledgeable about the LGBTQIA+ community and the issues people in the community face
- Having experience with affirming therapy
- Being understanding
- Being empathetic
- Being empowering
- Being objective
With these qualities, training, and experience, an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist can help you work through a variety of issues or struggles such as:
- Coming out to friends and family
- Embracing your sexual identity
- Gender dysphoria
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship troubles
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
Additional LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Resources
- LGBTQIA+ National Help Center: This organization offers three hotlines: one for adults, one for youths, and one for seniors 50 and over. There is also an online support chat where you can message a peer support volunteer, as well as weekly moderated youth chat rooms.
- The Trevor Project: This organization primarily focuses on LGBTQIA+ Mental Health in youths. They offer a hotline, online chat, and texting option.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: While this hotline is not specifically for LGBTQIA+ folks, the trained volunteers can help you out if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts. If you are feeling suicidal and afraid of hurting yourself, do not hesitate to reach out to the Lifeline or head to your nearest emergency room.
To sum it all up, if you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community and struggling with your mental health and wellbeing, LGBTQIA+ friendly therapy can change your life for the better. Affirming therapy can help you feel proud to be LGBTQIA+, and an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist can help you navigate your life struggles, making you a more confident and mentally resilient person.
It may take a couple of tries to find the LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist who’s best for you, but don’t give up. Once you find your match, it’ll be well worth it.