Gay Therapy: How to find the right Gay Therapist
In the United States, LGBTQ people experience alarmingly high rates of mental illness, with over 39% of the LGBTQIA+ population reporting experiencing a mental illness within the past year. According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ people are twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to experience mental illness. Other estimates put that rate higher, reporting that LGBTQ people are 2.5-times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse than heterosexual individuals.
LGBTQ people often face barriers to healthcare such as social stigma, discrimination, and prejudice, making it difficult for gay people to access quality mental health treatment. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals learn that not all mental health professionals understand their life experiences, and negative interactions with providers might lead individuals to avoid seeking help when they need it most.
Whether you’re thinking about starting therapy for the first time or looking for a therapist who understands you, it’s important to remember that help is available. Although searching for an LGBTQIA+ therapist might feel like a daunting task, finding the right fit can make a significant difference in your mental well-being.
Should you look for a gay therapist?
The therapy process is deeply personal. For many people, it’s important that their therapist can directly relate to their life experiences. For LGBTQ people, working with a mental health professional who understands what it’s like to live as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community can boost mental health outcomes.
While there are many heterosexual gay-friendly therapists, working with a therapist who is also a member of the LGBTQIA+ community can help you form a deeper therapeutic alliance. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), developing an open, honest relationship with your therapist is essential to helping you connect with, remain, and get the most out of your therapy sessions.
Additionally, because many people who identify as lesbian or gay can be part of a second (and sometimes third or more) marginalized community, it may be helpful to search for a psychologist who shares another aspect of your identity. BIPOC individuals, people with physical disabilities, and those with different religious beliefs from their neighbors have complex life experiences, and it’s essential to find a therapist who understands and respects your background.
How can you find a gay therapist?
Unfortunately, finding an LGBTQ therapist isn’t always easy—and it’s not safe to assume that every psychologist is LGBTQ-friendly or sympathetic to LGBTQ issues. Fortunately, using online therapist directories, it’s possible to find competent and compassionate therapists who share key aspects of your identity.
To start your search, use an online therapy platform or directories like Psychology Today, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, WithTherapy or the Therapy Group of DC. Online therapist directories make it easy for gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender individuals to search for mental health professionals who match their unique preferences and requirements. Some directories also feature filters to help you further narrow your search, including sexual orientation, gender identity, insurance coverage, and location.
What should you look for in a therapist?
If having an LGBTQ psychologist is essential to you, filter your search to find therapists who are open about their sexual orientation, attraction, and gender identity and are willing to discuss yours. Working with LGBTQ therapists who feel comfortable with their sexuality is essential when talking about issues that you may be facing as a gay person.
With that said, sexual orientation isn’t the only thing you should look for in a therapist. In addition to filtering your search to find an LGBTQ therapist, be sure to research the therapist’s education, training, and understanding of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual issues.
Your therapist should have experience working with other gay men, women, and gender diverse people, and they should be familiar with issues surrounding sexuality, gender expression, coming out, mental illness, self-esteem, and other issues that affect the LGBTQ community. Of course, not every psychologist will be an expert on all of these topics, but it’s crucial to find a therapist who has the training and experience needed to address your personal needs.
During your search, avoid psychologists who promise to treat or “cure” homosexuality, as sexual orientation change efforts like conversion therapy and reparative therapy are unsuccessful and harmful. Homosexuality is not a mental illness—and conversion therapy is a harmful practice that can take a significant toll on self-esteem, leading to self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. A good therapist will work with you to help you feel comfortable with your sexuality instead of trying to “cure” you.
Mental Health Resources for the LGBTQ Community
LGBTQIA+ individuals are incredibly resilient in the face of adversity, and social support from family members, communities, and peers can help LGBTQ people thrive. The following mental health resources can help LGBTQ youth and adults connect with their community, access mental health services, and combat social stigma.
- The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, minors, and young people under 25. Through The Trevor Project website, young people can access a 24/7 lifeline, live chat, and online safe space.
- The Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equity Index provides the national LGBTQIA+ benchmarking tool, which evaluates medical establishment policies and practices related to LGBTQIA+ patients, visitors, and practitioners.
- The It Gets Better Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting, empowering, and connecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth worldwide. The website features educational resources, stories, and a directory of local gay therapy resources for LGBTQ individuals and allies.
- The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network helps connect QTPOC to gay therapists of color. They also provide a mental health fund, which offers financial support to help QTPOC work with mental health professionals and overcome economic barriers in the mental health system.
- PLFAG offers a wide range of support groups and educational resources for LGBTQ people, their families, and their allies. Support groups can be particularly valuable to LGBTQ youth and adults questioning their sexual attraction, gender identity, romantic attraction, and other prominent issues experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality provides helpful educational resources, self-help guides, and information on state laws regarding employment, same-sex marriage, housing, and more.
- The Therapy Group of DC, an online therapy platform, uses smart technology to connect LGBTQ people to compassionate, authentic therapists and counselors based on their personal preferences and requirements.
Find a Gay Therapist Online
If you’re having trouble finding an LGBTQIA+ therapist in your area, it’s still possible to find a therapist that matches your preferences. Many psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors offer online services, such as video counseling and live chat so that you can access personalized mental health treatment from the comfort of your own home.
To find the right therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through the Therapy Group of DC. We know that starting therapy isn’t easy, and we use data-driven, personalized treatments to help you become the best version of yourself. One of our experienced mental health professionals will help you navigate your mental health concerns and live a more fulfilling life.