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How to Find an LGBTQ Affirming Therapist


LGBTQ affirming therapist

If you identify as part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, finding affirming mental health care can feel like a daunting task. This concern is also, unfortunately, a valid one; many sexual and gender minoritized folks report experiencing harm by providers who lack understanding and knowledge in queer mental health, and this is especially true for queer and trans people of color. On the flip side, therapy with an affirming and competent provider can be an incredibly healing and liberating experience.


Why is it Important to Find an Affirming Therapist?


LGBTQIA2S+ individuals face a variety of negative physical and behavioral health impacts directly related to sexual and gender identity discrimination. According to the Center for American Progress’ report, The State of the LGBTQI+ Community in 2022, “more than 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including more than 56% of transgender Americans.”


This discrimination has a range of harmful effects on mental and physical health for the queer community, including higher rats of depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidality, as well as a range of chronic conditions, including specific cancers and heart disease. Affirming providers who work with the LGBTQ community understand this context.


An affirming therapist does more than merely recognize this context, however. Many define an affirming therapist as someone who accepts queer identities, however, a truly affirming therapist should go beyond this. Good, quality, affirming care is therapy that can recognize the oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual, non binary, transgender, and other queer folks and take steps to disrupt this.


Additionally, an affirming therapist should understand common barriers to care that LGBTQ clients face, be familiar with how minority stress can contribute to mental health disorders, provide trauma informed care, and maintain competence in practice guidelines around understanding current sexual orientation and gender identity related issues.


Tips to Help you Find a Provider you Feel Safe with:

Use databases and search engines


There are a variety of databases that can help you filter therapists by their affirming practice or even their own queer identity. These search engines can be helpful in narrowing your search. For example, Psychology Today is a widely used website that helps individuals find therapists; this database allows you to use a filter system when you search therapists, which includes specialties such as “LGBTQ+.” You can also search for group therapies on this website in addition to individual and couples therapy services.


As an additional tip, read a few different therapist bios and start to notice how therapists might describe their own affirming practice and their approach to creating a safe space for LBGTQ clients. Some therapists will provide detailed information on their profile, including specific trainings and statements of positionality, while others may not.


There are also online directories specific to LGBTQ affirming providers. Two prominent ones are GLMA’sLGBTQ+ Healthcare Directory and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network’s Mental Health Directory. Another great resource is WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) — their website has a provider directory for providers who specialize in gender affirming care.


The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) also has a directory of AASECT certified therapists by state. Finally, some health insurance websites might have an LGBTQ+ filter on their own provider search engines.


Check out LGBTQ community centers


Many (although, unfortunately, not all) communities have local LGBTQ+ centers and therapists who offer affirming therapy. For example, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, is a wonderful community resource for those living in the Los Angeles area. Community centers can be a wonderful resource, not only for affirming mental health services, but for connecting with other resources, such as social events, workshops, and groups. CenterLink has a directory for a variety of LGBTQ centers you can search for by location.


Ask your potential therapist some important questions


Once you have scheduled a session or consultation call with a therapist, it is important to ascertain if this person is a good fit for you, and that they are competent in providing LGBTQ affirming care. Here are some examples of questions that can help you understand your therapist’s approach more:


“What is your experience working with LGBTQIA2S+ individuals?”


Make sure your therapist has adequate experience with folks who have similar identities to your own. If your therapist is being supervised by someone, make sure their supervisor has this experience as well.


“How do you define affirming therapy? How does this impact your work?”


An affirming provider should be able to speak to how their understanding of LGBTQ+ identities influences their therapeutic work.


“What is your process with documentation? Do I have access to my notes?”


Affirming therapists value collaboration and transparency. Depending on the therapist’s context, a willingness to talk about documentation can convey this transparency.


“What is your theoretical orientation?”


A therapist’s theoretical orientation guides how they conceptualize mental health issues and treatment. There is no right or wrong orientation (whether evidence based or not), and you get to have your own preferences here! The important part is that you understand your therapist’s style and you are comfortable with it.


“Have you received specialized training in working with the queer community? What has that entailed?”


A competent provider should be able to speak to why they are competent.


“How do you handle information that is new to you regarding the LGBTQIA2S+ community?”


An affirming therapist should not rely on their clients for their education, but should also be open to hearing what they need to learn more about.


“What do opportunities for feedback look like?”


Does this provider welcome your feedback on how therapy is going? Do they take this into consideration? Does it feel safe to offer this feedback?


“May I ask if you identify with the queer community? If you do not, what does being an ally mean to you?”


Many therapists are comfortable disclosing their identities, but some are not. Regardless, if you are working with someone outside of the community, they should be competent in LGBTQ issues. It is okay to ask how someone shows up as an ally.


Working with an affirming provider can be a transformative experience for LGBTQIA2S+ community members. Even though it can take time to find the right therapist, it is worth it. Good luck on your therapy journey!

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Dr. Arenella received her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship as the Michael Metz Fellow in Couples’ Sexual Health at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is an AASECT certified sex therapist, and has received specialized training in sex therapy modalities, gender affirming care, and sexual trauma. She is a licensed psychologist in California and Minnesota.



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