Queer affirming therapy is more than simply working with a therapist who treats LGBTQIA clients. It’s a type of therapy that expresses acceptance, gratitude, and celebration for clients of all identities.
Therapists often ask their clients to practice self-affirmations as a way to boost self-esteem or self-worth. They instruct their clients to look at themselves in the mirror and say proudly, “You are strong and resilient and I really like you!” Queer affirming therapy brings this same self-affirming energy into each session.
When it comes to finding a therapist, many queer individuals put finding a queer affirming therapist at the top of their priority list. How does someone find a queer affirming therapist and what does it even mean to be queer affirming? Read on to learn more.
What is queer affirming therapy?
Queer affirming therapy describes a practice of working with queer clients to affirm their identities, not just accept them. Queer affirming therapists strongly believe that a client’s mental health issues are not solely a result of their identity as queer. While many queer affirming therapists belong to the queer community or are allies, they also recognize that they do not know everything about what it means to an individual to hold a certain identity or how it feels to experience a specific situation.
Many queer affirming therapists make learning about LGBTQIA issues a committed practice, including reading about major historical events and engaging in the current discourse around social justice topics. They may also participate in many LGBTQIA advocacy events in their community. Importantly, queer affirming therapists avoid making assumptions about their clients based on the identities they hold. They also are trained to actively listen to their clients without asking for too many details, especially details about their identity, coming out experiences, or relationships. Many queer affirming therapists practice trauma-informed therapy and prioritize creating a strong sense of safety in their sessions.
Queer affirming therapists specialize in working with LGBTQIA folks not only because of their training and education on LGBTQIA mental health, but because they take a celebratory approach to queer identities. Queer affirming therapists will validate a client’s negative experiences with discrimination, harassment, and judgement – but they’ll also work instill a sense of pride within their clients for being authentically who they are and empower them to feel good about themselves and their lives.
Why does finding a queer affirming therapist matter?
For many LGBTQIA clients, it’s difficult to open up about their mental health. In many cases, LGBTQIA individuals have faced discrimination in healthcare settings, which can put them off working with mental health professionals. Systemic oppression can lead to strong feelings of distrust for therapists. It can be terrifying for individuals to open up about their feelings, especially if they're experiencing intense negative emotions.
Finding a queer affirming therapist, in these instances, is paramount for their success in reaching their mental health goals. Many therapists can support LGBTQIA clients, however queer affirming clients specialize in not only supporting these clients but helping them surpass their goals by engaging in conversations that recognize the client’s strengths. Queer affirming therapists place heavy emphasis on resilience and highlight each client’s strengths, especially those that come from intersecting identities.
Queer affirming therapists ensure that all aspects of the therapy process are respectful and appropriate for LGBTQIA clients. Their intake forms might include extra fields for pronouns or preferred names. Their offices might include pride flags in their decorations or otherwise indicate support for LGBTQIA folks. Queer affirming therapists work hard to create welcoming, judgement-free spaces where mental health is prioritized.
How do you find a queer affirming therapist?
When searching for a queer affirming therapist, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With many therapists marketing themselves as LGBTQIA-friendly, it can be difficult to tell who has undertaken additional education or certification in queer affirming therapy. Look for any demonstrated expertise in working with queer clients, such as the Professional Association for Transgender Health (PATH) certification for working with trans clients or past work experiences in LGBTQIA mental health.
It’s also helpful to get specific in your searches. The term “queer” is a huge umbrella term that encompasses many diverse identities. When you’re looking for a therapist to work with, it can be helpful to narrow your search and look for a therapist who works with your specific identity or identities. You might consider whether you would prefer to work with a therapist who identifies the same as you – or if you’re open to a therapist who identifies differently.
Another way to narrow your search is to think about what issues are central to your personal queer experience. If you started fighting with your family after coming out, you might look for a therapist who specializes in family conflict. If you are having a difficult time in the workplace because of your identity, you might search for a therapist who specializes in workplace stress. Any way to narrow down your list of potential therapists will save you time when you start to have consultation phone calls.
Zencare supports clients of all identities, including LGBTQIA therapy-seekers. We want it to be easy for clients to find the perfect therapist, which is why we’ve created filters for Speciality and Identity to make it convenient for you to find therapists offering what you’re looking for. Once you’ve found a potential therapist, check out their introductory video and schedule a consultation call with them directly from Zencare.
What questions do you ask a provider to determine if they’re queer affirming?
Your consultation call with a potential therapist is a time for you to discover if you feel comfortable with the therapist and if their therapeutic approach is what you’re looking for. Wondering if they’re queer affirming in their practice? Here are a few questions to ask them during your conversation:
- Have you had experience working with LGBTQIA/[your specific identity] clients? Can you tell a bit about the work that you did together?
- How do you create safe spaces in your practice?
- What therapy approaches do you use in your sessions?
- What can you tell me about the latest LGBTQIA events/discussions/political discussions?
Asking questions during your consultation call will help get you the answer to the big questions: Do I feel comfortable speaking with this therapist? Can I see myself opening up to this therapist? Does this therapist have the proper credentials and experiences to be called queer affirming?
It may take a few calls with a few therapists to find the one that makes you feel connected, respected, and eager for therapy. That’s normal! Once you find the right therapist, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands – and that it’s now time to start your therapy journey.