Finding a queer-friendly therapist


Therapy has so many benefits and the key to getting the most out of your therapy sessions is finding a queer-friendly therapist that works for you. Opening up about your deepest thoughts and feelings puts you in a vulnerable position, so you need to feel comfortable.

Research shows that LGBTQ+ communities have higher rates of mental illness and often face a lack of understanding or stigma when we seek mental health help.

Therefore, a lot of queer people find it helpful to have a therapist that’s either queer themselves or is well versed on issues that the LGBTQ+ community can face. Let’s face it, it’s nerve-wracking enough to attend therapy, never mind wondering if they’re going to understand your identity and give you the respect you deserve.

There are lots of reasons you might feel more comfortable with a queer-friendly therapist, but how do you go about finding one? It’s not as hard as you might think, so let’s take a look.

Do Some Research

Paper heart with LGBTQ+ flag on it is held in a person's open hands.

LGBTQ+ heart in open hands.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

The first step is to do some research and think about what sort of therapy will be suitable for you. There are lots of different therapy types, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and psychodynamic therapy, just to name a few.

Think about what issues you want to address specifically. Doing a bit of reading on different therapy types will give you a clearer understanding of what might work best for your needs.

Each therapist will offer different approaches, so this helps to narrow the search down right away. If you aren’t sure what’s best for you, don’t worry you can still use the rest of the advice here!

Utilize Online Resources

One of the best ways to find a therapist that is LGBTQ+ friendly is to use online resources. There are some great websites that can help you find therapists near you (or an online therapist if you prefer).

The list below includes websites that allow you to filter by therapy type; the issue you want to address; gender (you might feel more comfortable with someone who shares the same gender identity as you), and whether the therapist is LGBTQ+ friendly.

These are just a few options, there are lots more on offer. You may be able to find a local mental health center that can provide a list of local queer-friendly therapists. It’s also worth checking out mental health charity websites, as they tend to have a lot of relevant information.

Talk to Your Doctor

Sometimes talking to your regular doctor can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you have had bad experiences with doctors (a lot of us have). But it’s worth speaking up about what you’re going through if you can, as they might be able to refer you to a suitable therapist. They may even be able to give you a list of local resources that could work for you.

If you are already under the care of a mental health professional but aren’t currently receiving therapy, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask for what you need. Sometimes word of mouth can be best, so if you have a friend or family member who knows a good therapist that helped them, it’s worth checking out their recommendation.

Check Their Credentials 

Of course, you want to ensure that any therapist you choose is appropriately qualified, so always check their credentials. You can also check their website or online listings to see if they have experience dealing with the specific issue you want to address. They’ll often list conditions they have experience treating and therapy types they’re qualified in.

Their listing may specifically state that they’re queer-friendly or have experience dealing with LGBTQ+ issues, which is always a ‘green flag’. If you want to talk about gender-related topics, check to see if this is something they mention.

Ask Questions

Woman talking into her mobile phone while making notes on a piece of paper. She has her laptop open and a cup beside her.

Woman on phone making notes.

Photo by Anna Shvets

Once you have a shortlist of therapists that seem like they might work for you, you can start reaching out to ask questions. You can email or call them, and they’ll typically arrange an initial phone call or in-person session. This is usually a shorter session and is typically free, to help you both figure out whether you’re a good fit.

Make sure you speak up as this is your time to figure out whether this person can really help you. It’s helpful to prepare a list of questions you want to ask, in case you get flustered (it’s totally normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and nervous).
We've included a few example questions you might want to ask to help you get started if you’re feeling a bit lost:

  • I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community, do you have experience working with people in my community?
  • How do you make your sessions a safe, inclusive space?
  • Do you have training that involves LGBTQ+/gender issues?
  • Do you have experience treating ‘your mental illness’?
  • What sort of approach would you take towards ‘a problem you want to address’?

Consider Other Factors

Although for many people finding an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist is crucial, for some people other factors might be more important. For example, if you have a complex mental illness, it might be more important for you to find someone highly qualified in this area even if they aren’t trained in queer issues.

Some people might prefer someone of a specific gender or someone who shares the same religion, background, or race as them. This is all completely valid – you need to figure out what is going to make you feel most at ease.

Unfortunately, costs and availability where you live can also play a part in choosing your therapist. Therapy can be pricey and tricky to access, but if you are in a position to attend therapy, it’s a fantastic investment for your mental health.

Remember You Can Keep Looking

Young woman with rainbow fringe holds the pride flag. She wears a white crop top and is smiling.

Young woman with pride flag.

Photo by Anna Shvets

At the end of the day, therapy is all about you. It’s about you finding a professional that will support you and guide you in a way that allows you to flourish and grow as a person. Keep in mind that you are the priority here.

Even if you spend a lot of time doing research and choose a therapist that seems perfect for you, but after a few sessions you feel you aren’t clicking with them, you don’t have to continue. You can keep looking and try again.

Keep pushing and advocating for yourself until you find what works for you because you’re worth it. You deserve the right help to be the best version of yourself.

References

Rees SN, Crowe M, Harris S., (2021), The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities' mental health care needs and experiences of mental health services: An integrative review of qualitative studies. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2021 Aug;28(4):578-589.

Photo courtesy of Erkin Athletics

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