Finding the right LGBTQI affirming therapist might be hard, but how wonderful to find that safe space?
Have you ever thought of looking for a therapist? Personally, I think everyone needs one. Who wouldn’t want a safe space to reflect and simply be? Many enter into therapy as skeptics, but they leave transformed. Therapy isn’t someone telling you how to live your life. It’s someone helping you live your life more authentically and peacefully. Until you experience the therapeutic process, it can be difficult to understand.
We all need help sometimes. No one is immune to the struggles in life. Gay, straight, bi, trans, family member of, or whatever label you assign yourself, finding a therapist open to the community means finding someone who is first and foremost, open to all. I would love to tell you this is true of all therapists, but it’s not. Finding the right LGBTQI affirming therapist will take some research and leg work. It’s also important to understand that a therapist may not necessarily have to identify as LGBTQI to help you and your family. Although, you may feel more comfortable with a therapist who identifies as LGBTQI. That is something you have to decide for yourself.
Shopping for a therapist is important.
If you want to be seen as different, you want a therapist who is empathetic to your unique struggles. Due diligence will help you find the best therapist for you and your presenting issues. Sometimes the feeling is immediate and you know, “this is someone who can help me.” Don’t stop interviewing for a therapist if the first one doesn’t work out. When you find the one, help and healing will begin. The relationship between you and your therapist should be a safe space, void of judgement, and full of validation and empathy.
It’s important to ask questions before you schedule your appointment. Ask the potential therapist the following questions:
- What are your views on LGBTQI issues?
- How comfortable are you in working with these issues?
- What experience or training do you have in working with this community?
The therapist has an ethical responsibility to share comfort level, limitations, issues that may interfere with providing therapy, and should know when to offer a referral.
How do you begin therapy?
If you know the issues you want to address, there’s your starting point. Some people enter into therapy as a means of self-discovery and life enhancement. Some issues touch everyone, others only the LGBTQI community. Remember, we are more alike than we are different. Yet, not everyone suffers from discrimination, bullying, and social rejection like LGBTQI people. Your coming out or transition process is unique. A therapist can help you and your family navigate this time in your life; you are not alone. A good therapist should feel like a GPS for life.
Once you make the appointment and enter into the cathartic experience of therapy, remember that your gender identity / sexual orientation may not be the focus of your therapy. If the presenting issue is related to your sexuality or gender then obviously it’s part of the discussion. If not, it will be more productive to focus on whatever issues prompted the appointment. Remember, that you are more than your sexual orientation or gender assignment. You don’t have to preface your session with “I’m LGBTQI” unless it’s relevant. It’s true, a therapist might assume your sexuality/gender assignment. Allowing your story to come out naturally will allow your therapist to get to know you over the course of the relationship.
Substance abuse and depression
The prevalence for substance abuse, addiction and depression are profound in the LGBTQI community. Using alcohol or drugs as an attempt to escape the pain of life often ends tragically. Suicidal ideations can arise when life feels more painful than the thought of death. If you or your loved one is struggling with thoughts of self-harm, please seek help. Remember, depression is treatable, which means you could feel better, but you need to ask for help. Things around you may not change, but you can change how you cope with these issues from within. Counseling can help you and your family in coping with the unique challenges related to LGBTQI and the everyday challenges of life.
Diversity presents distinct, profound issues. We are all different and we all struggle at times – yet we are all still incredibly similar. Peace doesn’t have to be elusive, do not suffer in silence. Help is available. PsychologyToday.com is one resource to finding your therapist.
You can find local Upstate therapists on our resource page.
Here are two 24 hour crisis lines if you or a loved one are in need of help:
864 271 8888 – 24/7 Crisis Line
800 291 2139 – 24/7 Crisis Line – Safe Harbor