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.

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.