What to look for in an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist
It took me a while to understand that it’s important to do your research before investing your time and money into therapy.
Finding a therapist who can hold space for all the different facets of yourself is important. I tried several, from CBT practitioners on the NHS, to a couple of EAP counsellors who, while partially helpful, left me feeling that I’d self-edited somehow.
It wasn’t until I was in psycho-therapeutic counselling training myself that I realised that I could shop around. Find someone who was a good fit. As a bisexual person, when I did this, it unlocked something. I saw this therapist for almost three years, and in this time, was facilitated in processing ongoing shame and past traumas which had previously never seen the light of day, in an environment where there was no holding back.
It was life-changing and empowering. With this lived experience, I wanted to share some elements that can be helpful to understand and look out for in your own search for an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist.
Where to find LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapists
Counselling Directory have a multitude of qualified, experienced LGBTQIA+ therapists available, to suit a range of budgets. Most offer free or low-cost initial calls to determine your needs.
Accessing therapy doesn’t need to break the bank. The LGBTQIA+ pay gap is real, as is the cost-of-living crisis. There could be many reasons why you might be on a tight budget. If this is the case, there are several LGBTQIA+ organisations and charities which offer sliding-scale therapies in the UK, as well as access to community events and resources.
Ways of working
You may find that your therapist is also a queer person. Their lived experience may mean that they offer more self-disclosure than you might have had with other therapists. They should bring awareness of queer life, and non-judgement, so that you don’t have to take up valuable time in the therapy room explaining how it works. Your therapist should be able to acknowledge how your identity intersects with your other protected characteristics.
Areas you may want to cover in therapy
You might cover issues of identity, coming out, sexuality, gender, discrimination. Perhaps internalised homophobia or transphobia, traumas or shame. And, really, any other issues that you wish to attend therapy to work through.
Questions to ask yourself
You might want to take into consideration some of the below when choosing your therapist:
- Am I comfortable enough to work through the areas I need to with this person?
- Is this person holding space for me and my unique identity?
- Am I self-editing or can I bring all the parts of myself that I need to?
- Is this person respecting me by using the correct pronouns/not assuming based on appearance?
- Is this person a qualified professional and registered with an appropriate professional body?
A note on “conversion therapy”
Although sadly not yet illegal in the UK, “conversion therapy” is an unethical practice and if you have any indication from a therapist that they are attempting this, then leave the session as soon as it is safe to do so and report it to their professional body.
Feeling empowered in your search
Well done for having the self-awareness to start your journey in finding an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist.
We all deserve to work with someone who has the capacity to fully see us and accept us, allowing a focus on what’s needed, and delivering results that lead to meaningful change in our lives.