What is the importance of LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy?

by Andres Carrion | June 2021

Lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) affirming therapy is a therapeutic approach that focuses on embracing diverse sexual and gender identities. LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy is much more than being kind and welcoming to clients of diverse identities. It is about validating clients’ experiences and holding space for them to explore the complexities of these social identities. LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy understands that sexual and gender identities are not choices and cannot be pathologized or changed. LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy also works to help clients combat internalized homophobia and transphobia and resolve contradictory or incongruent beliefs clients may have towards themselves. 

LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy is important for several reasons. First, LGBTQIA+ people continue to experience disproportionate rates of victimization and violence because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals do not have a supportive network of people who love and care for them unconditionally. Second, many LGBTQIA+ individuals are not “out” to their health providers (such as doctors and therapists) out of fear that their provider may be dismissive, misunderstanding, invalidating, or disrespectful of their identity. Many people fear that they may receive less than excellent care or may even be turned away because of their identity. Finally, many LGBTQIA+ individuals have distrust in therapy due to the homophobic and transphobic history of the field. For instance, “homosexuality” was in the DSM until DSM III and “gender identity disorder” was in the DSM until the fifth and current edition. Though it can be scary, LGBTQIA+ should feel comfortable and safe to discuss their sexual and/or gender identity with their therapists as well as their concerns with the therapeutic process. The culturally competent and affirmative therapist should be aware of these issues and hold space for their clients to feel safe enough to disclose their identities, discomforts, and fears with their therapist. 

LGBTQIA+ affirmative and culturally competent therapy is a right that clients have and a necessity for therapy to be an effective treatment modality. LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapy comes down to safety and whether clients feel safe enough to discuss these topics with their therapists. If you are seeking a LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist, here are some questions you may want to consider asking your new therapist: 

  1. Can you describe your professional orientation to therapy?
  2. What is your view of LGBTQIA+ people?
  3. What kind of training or professional experience do you have working with LGBTQIA+ clients? 
  4. What is your approach to working with LGBTQIA+ clients?
  5. How will you hold space for me and my oppression?
  6. How do you work with clients who present with similar problems as me?


   
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