There is a common perception that all therapists are empathetic towards everyone, and have the training and sensitivity to keep bias out of their practice.
But intolerance towards LGBT people can happen in professional counseling – and when it does occur, it can be incredibly damaging to a person’s sense of self-worth.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what affirming therapy is. We’ll also go over the three best LfGBT therapy platforms to help you connect with a licensed professional who will help you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Quick comparison table
How to find an LGBT friendly therapist near me
The quality of mental health care for LGBT people varies greatly depending on where you live.
If you keep searching a LGBT affirming therapist near me to no avail, online therapy might be worth looking into. With virtual counseling, you can connect with a queer therapist who will make you feel understood and supported, no matter where you live.
Pride Counseling is an online therapy platform that specializes in LGBTQ affirming counseling.
The platform is a sister website of BetterHelp – one of the world’s largest online counseling providers. They created Pride Counseling after recognizing that if you deal with traumas related to your gender identity or sexual orientation, it pays to get help from an LGBT affirming counselor.
When you sign up for Pride Counseling, you complete a questionnaire, answering questions about your background, experiences, and the type of help you’re looking for. Pride Counseling then matches you with the most appropriate therapist for your specific needs.
With this platform, you can connect with your counselor through live chat, phone, or video calls. This gives you the freedom to choose the method of communication that you feel most comfortable with.
There are no limits on how often you can get in contact, which allows you to pass on your thoughts or feelings throughout the day, rather than having to wait for your next appointment before getting help. However, the number of live sessions you can have each month will depend on your subscription plan.
All of Pride Counseling’s therapists are licensed counselors with a master’s or doctoral degree in their field. Every therapist is put through a rigorous examination process, and all have particular expertise in working with LGBT individuals.
The range of therapists on the platform also makes it easy to find someone who has helped other people deal with similar issues to what you’re going through.
For example, you can specify in the initial questionnaire that you’re questioning your gender, and want to work through this with an LGBT-affirming therapist. Pride Counseling will then match you with a counselor experienced in helping others in this area.
Online-therapy.com is a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) platform that offers CBT sessions for LGBT people through your phone or computer.
CBT focuses on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and how to cope with challenging situations in a healthy way. This type of treatment can help LGBT individuals:
- Manage thoughts and feelings around emotionally challenging situations, such as a traumatic coming out process or dealing with bullying (including from your family)
- Understand who you are and what your beliefs are, and create a secure sense of self
- Break down limiting beliefs and internalized trauma linked to your sexual identity
- Come to full acceptance of who you are
CBT sessions can help you understand and come to terms with any negative self-talk and toxic thoughts that are undermining your happiness and self-worth. It can also help you become more aware of these thoughts, so you are no longer controlled by them.
Along with CBT sessions, you also have the option to complete a self-help course with online-therapy.com. This course is comprised of eight sections and offers additional education and resources that will help you deepen your understanding of how to cope with negative self-talk, thoughts, and emotions. As you go through the modules and fill out the worksheets, your counselor is able to use your answers to further guide and aid you.
Mental health and the LGBT community
Because we live in a heteronormative society, being a part of the LGBT community is sometimes considered unusual or even wrong. Those who don’t fit into our collectively created gender expression boxes are often treated differently, and some people are even bullied or assaulted as a result of their gender identity.
Because of the overt and covert homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, and transphobia that continues to exist in the world, these phobias can become internalized within LGBT individuals and become the narrative that runs in their mind. When you internalize the collective belief that your existence is “not normal” or “unnatural”, this can have devastating consequences on your psyche and overall well-being.
We all have an inner critic that often makes us feel like we’re not good enough. But as an LGBT person, you not only deal with your own inner critic, but also the societal judgments and hurtful opinions of others. It’s no wonder why over half of the LGBT population struggles with depression and trauma-related disorders.
LGBT affirming vs LGBT friendly therapists
Being an affirming therapist means that you understand that identifying as LGBT is normal, and help clients work towards self-acceptance of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Affirming therapists focus on the trauma that LGBT people suffer from growing up in a heteronormative and often homophobic and transphobic society.
Unfortunately, some therapists and other professionals in clinical social work view heterosexuality as the norm, and everything else as a deviation from that. Even the most well-intentioned providers can create an unwelcoming environment for LGBT clients through their body language or choice of words if they have not been properly trained.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that there is a difference between LGBTQ-friendly and LGBT affirming therapy. Because many of us have grown up in a world that has negated or minimized the LGBT and queer community and their experiences, there is a lot of misinformation that is passed around. Graduate psychology programs have not traditionally focused on the special circumstances that come with working with this part of the population.
An LGBTQ-friendly or transgender therapist may be an open-minded person who has never felt any sort of ill feelings towards LGBT people. They may have gay or transgender friends or may even identify as queer themselves. While LGBTQ-friendly therapists can provide a lot of support for their clients, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to properly address the specific kind of traumas that so many in the LGBTIQ community face on a daily basis.
What happens during a session with an LGBT affirming therapist?
During a counseling session with a gay-affirming therapist, you can talk about whatever you want. For example, you may be seeking counseling sessions specifically to find out who you are and what you want, in terms of what types of people you might want romantic or sexual relationships with.
Perhaps you’re feeling a dissonance between your inner world and your outward appearance and want to talk to a professional about gender expression. You might also choose to talk about familial relationships or past traumas that are negatively impacting you.
You may want to discuss your views on marriage and family and explore if that is something you want for yourself. Or maybe there is a specific situation at work you’re struggling to deal with.
Whatever you bring to your sessions, a good LGBT affirming therapist will have a deep understanding of the traumas you are facing and will be better able to listen, support, and serve you in working through your problems.
During the session, therapists may use a number of different counseling techniques, depending on the type of help you need. For example, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be used to help you deal with challenging situations at home, or to help with depression/anxiety.
CBT therapists will help you to develop personal coping strategies to manage these challenging situations, helping you to regulate your emotions, even in challenging circumstances.
You’ve reached the end of our LGBT affirming therapy guide.
Still not sure how best to get help? Feel free to leave us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
I am a freelance writer, mental health advocate, and certified meditation teacher with extensive experience in mental and emotional health. After earning my master’s degree in educational psychology, I went on to practice crisis counseling and behavioral therapy.
As a writer, my aim is to utilize my personal and professional experience in mental health to create content that helps readers feel understood and supported. I have been a contributor for The Mighty, Yahoo!, and have ghostwritten for a variety of personal development and wellness websites.
When I’m not writing, you can find me exercising, reading, or playing with my dogs, Doug and Ozzy.