Research continues to show that gender and sexuality diverse (LGBTIAQ+*) folks experience disproportionately high levels of trauma, poorer mental health outcomes, and higher risk of suicide. These health outcomes are directly related to experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse on the basis of being LGBTIAQ+.
Therapy can play a vital role in combating the negative impacts of prejudice and discrimination and supporting overall mental health and wellbeing.
Some things affirming therapy can focus on include:
- Exploring and embracing gender identity and sexuality
- Addressing shame (including internalised transphobia and homophobia)
- Identifying, processing, and seeking further support regarding experiences of discrimination and/or abuse
- Support to access affirming medical care
- Preparing for/navigating social transition
- Educating family/carers/schools about the importance of providing accepting and affirming care and support
- Building up support systems and connecting with community
So how do you find a gender and sexuality diversity affirming therapist?
The prospect of finding a therapist in the first place can feel overwhelming, let alone the idea of opening up and being vulnerable with them. It might take a number of enquiries and even first sessions with a few different therapists to find the right one for you. Try to keep reminding yourself that
you deserve to see health professionals that listen and respond to your needs, and respect who you are
If you’re unsure where to start, consider the below tips:
Look for services/therapists who explicitly state they work with LGBTIAQ+ clients
Sites like Psychology today, Australian Association of Psychologists Inc, and the Australian Association of Social Workers allow you to filter your search for therapists who have identified themselves as affirming and/or informed. This can be a handy way to narrow down your options and create a bit of a shortlist.
Once you have the names of a few clinics or therapists that look promising, a great way to get a sense of whether a service or individual therapist will be the right fit for you is to ask questions. If this sounds daunting, you could ask a friend or family member to call with you, or you could even ask questions via email if this feels more safe/comfortable. Below are some ideas for questions that can be helpful to ask:
- Do you have experience working with gender and sexuality diverse/LGBTIAQ+ clients?
- Can the name and pronouns I use be recorded in my file?
- If the name and pronouns I use are on my file, will my parent/carer/doctor automatically know/see this information?
- Can you explain how your approach is affirming?
- How do you involve parents/carers in therapy?
- Do you have experience working with clients who are pursuing/accessing gender affirming medical care?
- What are my options if I start therapy with one/one of the therapists and decide they’re not the right fit?
While there is no foolproof way to find the right therapist for you, the tips and ideas above have hopefully provided a starting point.
Written by Hilary Morgendorffer, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Board approved supervisor. Hilary is a queer cis woman.
*Gender and sexuality diverse and LGBTIAQ+ have been used interchangeably