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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA therapy platforms to help you connect with a licensed professional who will help you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.
Want to skip right to the suggestions for LGBT-friendly therapists? Here are our 2 recommended therapy solutions:
How to find an LGBTQ friendly therapist near me
The quality of mental health care for LGBTQIA people varies greatly depending on where you live.
If you keep searching a LGBTQIA-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.
BetterHelp is one of the largest and most popular online therapy services. You can choose if you want to be matched with a therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ topics, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender issues, queer issues, and more.
When you sign up for BetterHelp, you complete a questionnaire, answering questions about your background, experiences, and the type of help you’re looking for. BetterHelp 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.
All of BetterHelp’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 they have a wide pool of therapists with particular expertise in working with LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQIA-affirming therapist. BetterHelp will then match you with a counselor experienced in helping others in this area.
Discover transformative online therapy with Online-therapy.com. Through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Online-therapy.com offers individual and couples support starting at $45/week. Engage in sessions via video, voice, or text for maximum flexibility. Fill out their online questionnaire to get started.
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 LGBTQIA 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 comprises 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA is normal, and help clients work towards self-acceptance of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Affirming therapists focus on the trauma that LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA-friendly and LGBTQIA-affirming therapy. Because many of us have grown up in a world that has negated or minimized the LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA-friendly or transgender therapist may be an open-minded person who has never felt any sort of ill feelings towards LGBTQIA people. They may have gay or transgender friends or may even identify as queer themselves. While LGBTQIA-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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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 LGBTQIA 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.