How To Find A Great LGBTQ Affirming Therapist

Counseling can be a positive step toward reducing painful emotions and better managing anxiety or depression. Therapy can also be a place for self-discovery and personal growth to increase your ability to live more authentically and live a life true to yourself. Your gender and sexual identity are a matter of diversity and not pathology.  Anxiety and depression can be natural reactions to the world around you. You are not broken or at fault for your identity. Please understand that emotional sensitivity is not a weakness but rather may mean that you are in tune with yourself.

Is Therapy Necessary for Affirming Sexual & Gender Identity?

Not all LGBTQ individuals are seeking treatment to address or affirm their sexual or gender identity, as you are a person with real emotional needs. However, if you are interested in exploring your identity, then it can be safe for you to enter into counseling with a therapist who recognizes that your experienced struggles are unique to you.  Not being true to your authentic self can leave you vulnerable to low self-esteem, shame, guilt, depression, and/or anxiety. You can rebuild and reinvent yourself to be more in-line with your authentic self and it is okay to seek support during this transition. Each individual has a vastly different experience and not everyone is seeking change. There is also support for you to find self-acceptance and self-love in a world that is not always offering unconditional love.

Aren’t All Therapists Able to Offer Services for the LGBTQ Community?

Not all therapists are adequately trained or educated in gender identity or LGBTQ concerns. Many naively accept clients dealing with gender-related issues believing that traditional counseling techniques will be adequate. However, it may be important to work with a therapist who understands the intricacies of LGBTQ individuals, the culture, an understanding of unique histories, shame-based traumas, gender, and sexual identity, and the personal needs involved. There are many therapists who are “LGBTQ friendly” but that is different than a therapist who is “LGBTQ affirming” who is competent and culturally trained. It could actually be more damaging to meet with a therapist who suggests that being LGBTQ is the source of your emotional pains or is simply unaware of gender-related concerns.  

What Should I Look for in an LGBTQ Affirming Therapist?

A skilled LGBTQ affirming therapist should be able to accurately diagnose and assess for gender dysphoria, understand the difference between sexual identity and sexual orientation, should ask what pronouns resonate with you and use them, be knowledgeable of appropriate LGBTQ terms, and have a strong understanding of the coming out process and this individualized experience.

Can I Meet with a Therapist for a Consultation or Interview?

When searching for the right therapist, it is okay to interview them about their training, knowledge, personal or religious feelings, and experience working with LGBTQ individuals. One of the most important factors to having a successful treatment experience is the client-therapist relationship and how comfortable you are with them. This is just as important as other factors that may impact your decision such as:

  • Availability of a specific form of therapy
  • Clinician’s Gender, age, or other demographic important to you
  • Location of the practice
  • Whether or not they accept your insurance
  • Rates for therapy services
  • Availability of phone or virtual telehealth sessions
  • Clinician’s credentials, training, and therapy approach

Do You Have Any Tips to Help Me Find the Right Therapist?

A few ways to maximize finding a therapist that is a good fit for you may include:

  • Getting a referral from a friend you trust who has had a good experience
  • Searching online by visiting the therapist website or professional social media
  • Reading their blogs or articles
  • Reaching out to a local LGBTQ organization that might point you in the right direction
  • There are a few internet resources that can help such as Outcarehealth.org, HRC.org, psychologytoday.com, or GetTherapy.com
  • Or call 1-888-Therapy and discuss some options with The GetTherapy Call center, who can match you with a great provider in your area. 

Finally, think of your first appointment like an interview with the prospective therapist before committing. At the end of the day, the relationship you have with your therapist and your ability to communicate with them honestly is the most important element of finding a great clinician. 

 

By Katie Short, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

501 Counseling

North Little Rock, AR

 

WRITTEN BY

Counselor, LPC

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