Key takeaways: 

  • LGBTQ+ therapy isn’t just about tolerance or acceptance. It’s a form of mental healthcare that celebrates and reflects the unique experience of queer individuals. 
  • Most traditional therapy has focused on supporting folks with cis-heteronormative (“cis-het”) identities. But LGBTQ+-friendly therapists are skilled in providing care for folks with diverse gender expressions and sexual identities.
  • Finding an LGBTQ+ therapist may seem challenging at first. However, by asking some questions ahead of time, you can confidently vet a potential therapist and ensure they’re the right fit for you. 
LGBTQ+-friendly therapy refers to therapy that honors, celebrates, and affirms all gender expressions, relationship types, and sexual identities. It differs from historically traditional types of therapy which were built on a foundation of supporting people in heterosexual relationships who have cis-heteronormative (“cis-het”) identities.* In addition to being a much-needed safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ affirming therapy takes into account the unique challenges that these individuals and communities face in accessing, and sometimes trusting, mental healthcare.  Many people in the queer community have been harmed by a practice called conversion therapy. This unethical form of therapy was designed to pressure someone into changing their sexuality or gender expression to fit cis-het societal expectations. It’s based on the incorrect, outdated belief that queerness is a choice and the result of a moral failing or mental illness.  Practicing conversion therapy on young people has been outlawed in many states in the U.S. because of its damaging effects. However, the trauma of conversion therapy still exists in the LGBTQ+ community to this day. Fortunately, LGBTQ+ therapists are working to combat the harmful legacy of this abusive practice by creating inclusive mental health spaces for the queer community. *The “cis” in “cis-het” stands for cisgender, which means a person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. The “het” in “cis-het” stands for “heteronormative”, which refers to the default assumption in society that people are straight. Together, the term cis-het means a person who identifies as cisgender and heterosexual.

Why finding a LGBTQ+-friendly therapist is important

Anyone attending therapy wants to feel seen and heard by their therapist. But this dynamic hasn’t always been easy for LGBTQ+ folks to find. Many members of this community have experienced oppression, discrimination, and rejection from systems and people in their lives that they should have been able to trust. It’s no surprise then that LGBTQ+-identifying folks tend to experience higher rates of depression, along with heightened risk for suicidal thinking and self-harm. All therapists are specifically trained to offer empathy and support to clients from a variety of backgrounds. In fact, exploring and challenging existing worldviews is an essential part of therapists’ training. However, moving through life as an LGBTQ+ person is a unique experience that requires a therapist with this unique understanding along with an awareness of related risk. Because of the higher rate of suicidality and self-harm, therapists who work with this population must have an in-depth understanding of suicide risks, the signs of self-harm, and specific training in crisis intervention. Keeping clients safe will be a top priority for LGBTQ+-affirming therapists.   In addition to being attuned to the unique safety concerns that may arise for their clients, therapists who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues often serve as a source of queer-friendly referrals to other types of care. These providers often keep a network of like-minded professionals in their corner. They tend to have great recommendations for trauma-informed, gender-affirming, sex-positive, and trans-inclusive physicians and other specialists that can be difficult to find.

How to find an LGBTQ+-friendly therapist

Every member of the LGBTQ+ community deserves mental healthcare that affirms and celebrates who they are. How do you find someone who can honor all aspects of your identity and who understands your unique challenges?  The following tips can help you find an LGBTQ+ therapist who’s right for you:
  • Ask for referrals. If it feels safe, ask your primary care provider, queer friends, or loved ones for a referral. Let them know that you’re looking for queer-friendly mental health support and ask about their experience. 
  • Consult LGBTQ+ resource groups. Check with LGBTQ-specific resources and organizations in your community.  If you’re unsure about local resources, check with the National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Directory or the LGBTQ+ Healthcare Directory.
  • Check out an inclusive teletherapy platform. Try an inclusive teletherapy platform that specializes in finding therapists for people of diverse backgrounds and identities. At Rula, our care coordinators can quickly help you find an LGBTQ+ therapist that takes your insurance and specializes in supporting the queer community.

How to vet a potential LGBTQ+ therapist 

Many LGBTQ+ therapists advertise their inclusive approach on their websites and social media pages. They might feature familiar queer-friendly images like rainbow symbols or flags and/or display their preferred pronouns.  However, you still might want to ask a few questions to gauge whether or not they’re the right fit for you. When you contact a potential therapist, either before or during the first session, asking the following questions can help you gain a better understanding of their background and approach to LGBTQ+ care. Note that most therapists will welcome these types of questions because they want to make sure they’re the right person to support you: 
  • What is your background and training in providing LGBTQ+-affirming care? 
  • What percent of your caseload identifies as LGBTQ+?
  • What do you find to be the biggest challenge in the LGBTQ+ community right now? This question really gauges the therapist’s understanding of the LGBTQ+ community’s needs and systemic issues.
  • What do you enjoy most about working with the queer community as a therapist? This question demonstrates a therapist’s capacity to honor and celebrate queer joy.
If it’s important to you, you can also ask if the therapist identifies as LGBTQ+ themselves. While a therapist can offer queer-affirming care without identifying as part of the queer community, it’s okay to prefer working with a therapist who shares this important aspect of your identity. 

Safety resources: Crisis lines and community support

Finding an LGBTQ+-friendly therapist can be an important step in strengthening your mental health. But if you or someone you care about needs support right away, the following organizations can help you build community and keep you safe.

How Rula makes it easier to find LGBTQ+ mental healthcare

Finding a therapist can be a challenge for folks from all walks of life. But finding a therapist who understands your LGBTQ+ identity and all the joys and challenges associated with your experience can feel all the more difficult.  LGBTQ+ therapists offer more than just tolerance. At Rula, we’re proud to partner with therapists who are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues, understand the intricacies of gender and sexuality, and see queerness as something to be celebrated.  To learn more about how our inclusive teletherapy platform can help match you with an LGBTQ+-friendly therapist who takes your insurance, check out our website.

LGBTQ-friendly therapists near you

New York, NYHouston, TXRancho Cucamonga, CAAustin, TXChicago, ILLos Angeles, CAPortland, ORDallas, TXJacksonville, FLCharlotte, NCDenver, CO – Philadelphia, PASeattle, WAFind your city

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