Having a therapist who supports you and has experience with LGBT+ issues is important for you to get the guidance you need.
A gay therapist is not necessarily a therapist who is gay, but rather a therapist who is informed and affirmative about gay issues, experiences, and identities.
A gay therapist is not someone that you only speak to about gay topics, either. Your gay therapist should be a professional whom you can speak to about all problems you encounter, emphasising being able to help you address and positively handle gay issues.
Here are 6 things to look for when searching for a gay therapist.
1. More than gay-friendly
As a therapist of LGBT+ people, it’s not enough to be gay-friendly. As an LGBT+ person, it’s essential to look for a therapist that is both gay informed and gay-affirming.
While it’s necessary to be open and welcoming to you as an LGBT+ person, it’s equally vital for your therapist to understand the issues that you face and to affirm your LGBT+ identity.
There’s nothing wrong with you for being gay, and you deserve to be treated with positive regard. The issues that you face as a gay, bisexual, lesbian, queer, transgender, or non-binary individual in a hetero-normative world are different than the problems a straight person will face.
If your therapist is not informed about the experiences you struggle with, they can’t help you the way you need. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a therapist with these values and beliefs to provide the counselling and support that you need.
2. Consider online therapy
You can use the internet to find your gay therapist and use it as a vehicle to facilitate your therapy. There are many resources available online to help you source a therapist, including databases of mental health professionals (local or specialised), websites for professional associations, support groups, and forums.
If you can’t find a local therapist that meets your needs, distance therapy (or online therapy) is another avenue to pursue. This alternative to traditional treatment allows you to reach a broader range of counsellors in various locations.
It’s imperative that you find a counsellor that’s a good fit for you and can meet your needs. Don’t settle for less than you need because you can’t find the right local professional.
Therapists often offer different forms of online therapy to reach clients in different locations and to meet a range of different needs. Ask your therapist about the options they provide for distance therapy.
3. Interview your therapist
Once you’ve found a therapist or two you think you might be a good fit, it’s time to interview them. You can either arrange a consultation with them or set up a phone call to ask them questions and get a feel for their attitude and approach.
Prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview to help you get a sense of their views on and experience with LGBTQI+ people and issues. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you have any trans friends or family?
- Have you worked with other lesbian couples?
- Are you comfortable talking about LGBTQI+ sexual issues?
- Do your personal or religious feelings prevent you from discussing some aspects of gay life?
- How up to date are you on the latest scholarly work in your field on bisexual issues?
- Can you be as open and honest with me as I will be with you?
If you don’t feel that the therapist is as informed, up to date, or gay-affirming as you need, move on.
If you receive answers during the interview that make you uncomfortable or dissatisfied, you’re not obligated to begin a relationship with that counsellor. The interview process aims to take a closer look at candidates and eliminate the ones that don’t meet your needs.
4. Expect small improvements early on
Once you’ve selected your gay therapist and have begun to see them, you should experience some improvement within a few sessions.
Big or deeply rooted issues certainly won’t be resolved so quickly, but small improvements should be identifiable early on.
Small improvement within a few sessions is a reasonable standard by which to gauge successful therapy outcomes. These improvements and outcomes should also feel like a positive change. That’s not to say they’ll be easy, but the change shouldn’t feel harmful to your emotions or sense of self.
5. Don’t stick with a bad fit
You’re not obligated to continue a counselling relationship with your gay therapist. If your therapist makes you feel bad about yourself, like there’s something wrong with you, or your problems and experiences are your fault or aren’t valid, don’t continue to see them for counselling.
Your therapist is supposed to be a person that you feel safe and comfortable with, a person you can open up to and be vulnerable with, and who has a positive impact on your life. If you don’t feel that way with your therapist, move on to someone else.
Therapists aren’t a one size fits all situation, either. Sometimes you do all your homework to vet a therapist, you feel safe and heard by them, but you still don’t gel with their vibes. That’s okay, too. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or anything wrong with them. It just means it’s not the right fit, and it’s time to move on.
6. Legal, ethical practices
To ensure you select a therapist who uses legal and ethical practices, educate yourself on current views of LGBT issues in the psychological community. This way, you know what to expect, and if an interview veers sharply away from current views on gay or trans issues, you’ll be aware that there might be something less than ethical going on.
When it comes to gay therapy, there are some major red flags and illegal practices to be aware of. Gay conversion therapy or ex-gay therapy is any attempt to change a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression. Conversion therapy is illegal and unethical, not to mention harmful and traumatic. If a therapist tries to change your sexual orientation, leave immediately, and report them to the health authorities.
You deserve a gay therapist who is informed and affirmative about LGBTQI+ issues and wants to support and work with you to improve and meet agreed-upon therapy outcomes. It’s worth putting the effort in to find a therapist that is a good fit for you and your needs.