Katie Taibl, RN, wrote the updated version of this article on 4/5/23. Andrea and Adryan wrote previous versions of this article.
If you're part of the LGBTQ community, navigating mental healthcare can be difficult. Whether you're actively struggling with mental health issues like anxiety or depression or want to overcome specific internal conflicts like internalized homophobia or exploring your gender identity, working with an LGBTQ-friendly therapist can be life-changing.
Many queer and trans people struggle to find mental health professionals who really understand sexual orientation and gender identity. Some providers don't understand what it means to be part of a marginalized community. However, finding competent mental health therapy is possible!
Benefits of an LGBTQ or LGBTQ-affirming therapist
- Understands the additional stresses and nuances of being queer
- Familiar with discrimination for identity
- Aware of the societal implications of having to come out
- Competent in gender diversity and gender-affirming care
Finding the right therapist for you
Ask a trusted provider
If you’re already seeing someone, but want to work with an LGBTQ-affirming mental health provider, ask your existing provider for recommendations. Most therapists want what is best for their clients and will be happy to help with a referral. FOLX providers and care teams can help members find LGBTQ-affirming mental health resources and therapists near them.
Try an internet search for LGBTQ-specialized therapists
The internet is a great place to search for an affirming therapist. Curate your search online for therapists who specify they work with queer people or identify as queer or LGBTQIA themselves. For example, you could google "LGBTQ therapists near me" or "gender-affirming therapists."
Start with your state
Make sure your location setting is on for your Google search for an LGBTQ therapist. Often, states will have specific mental health resources tailored to queer people.
Additionally, it's important to search within your state because therapists can only work with people in states they hold a license in. If there aren't any listings in your area, it might be helpful to expand your search by considering online therapy, where you'd meet with your therapist virtually.
Check Psychology Today
Most therapists are listed on the Psychology Today website. It’s a fairly user-friendly directory that allows you to search for therapists in your zip code.
Additionally, you can search by price, "issues," insurance, sexuality, and more. Under "Issues," there is an option for "Transgender." Under "Sexuality," there is an option for "LGBTQ+." Selecting the right search filters can connect you with the right therapist.
Affirming therapists typically will have information listed about their involvement with the LGBTQ community, including training and certifications. Still, truly knowing if a therapist is LGBTQ-competent can be challenging.
LGBTQ mental health search engines
Another option for finding a competent therapist is to use an LGBTQ health search engine. GLMA, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, has an LGBTQ+ Health Directory. You can search for therapists, psychiatrists, and sex therapists within a specific zip code. Providers list the therapies they specialize in, including gender-affirming and LGBTQ-affirming care.
For queer people of color, having a queer therapist of color might feel important. Studies show BIPOC LGBTQ folks experience more significant psychosocial stress. White therapists may not understand the full impact of racial microaggressions people of color experience. One directory of queer-competent and queer-identified therapists includes the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN).
Therapy Search Tips
- Search within your state
- Consider telehealth
- Consider nearby towns/cities in your state
Ask your community
Sometimes, your best resource is your community. If you know other LGBTQIA people who are in therapy, ask for their recommendations. You can post in local queer Facebook groups or "queer exchanges'' to check for queer-competent providers in your area.
If you contact a recommended provider that isn't accepting new patients, don't be afraid to ask if they have a waitlist or if they have referrals. They may know of other mental health resources like hotlines, support groups, group therapy, and family therapy. Just because someone cannot see you doesn't mean they can't help guide you in the right direction.
How can you tell if a therapist is LGBTQ-friendly?
Some signs indicate an LGBTQ-friendly therapist, even before the first meeting. Are their pronouns listed on their website or professional page? Do they mention anything about working with LGBTQ individuals?
The best way to know if a therapist is LGBTQ-friendly is by asking a few direct questions during your first visit. It might seem awkward or intimidating at first. However, you can be empowered to take this opportunity to see if your therapist is a true LGBTQ advocate and has the experience you are looking for.
Therapists often offer free, no-charge consultation calls with prospective clients. During the visit, have a list of questions handy to see if it's a match made in queer heaven.
Questions could include:
- What is your experience providing counseling services to the queer community?
- What training(s) have you completed to better understand working with queer people?
- Are you willing to disclose if you are a member of the LGBTQ community? (Some therapists may not want to disclose this, but many will!)
- Do you currently have other queer clients?
- What would you do if I shared something you weren't familiar with or educated on regarding LGBTQ issues?
- Are you in supervision? Does your supervisor understand queer and trans identity?
If they aren't able to answer these questions, it may not be wise to move forward with this therapist. They may not have the skill and competency you want. If your mental health provider doesn't check all your boxes, weigh the pros and cons of sticking it out with them. Don’t be afraid to therapist shop! It is common for it to take several conversations to find the right fit.
Accessing LGBTQ-friendly therapy with FOLX
We’ve heard from our community how challenging it can be to access mental health services, so we are proud to now be able to offer therapy and mental health medication management in select states (with more being added all the time). FOLX offers therapists who are not only experts in LGBTQ health; they're either LGBTQIA themselves or have strong ties to the community. Having a safe space to work through mental health issues alongside a caring and competent provider is one way to feel better about yourself, your circumstances, or the world at large. Building self-esteem, in partnership with someone who understands, can be an essential step in your personal healing.
Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ people are more prone to mood and anxiety disorders. Find a provider with knowledge of LGBTQ-specific health issues. Our providers are trauma-informed, holistic, affirming, and competent in evidence-based LGBTQ mental health care.
Therapy via telehealth
The decision to start therapy or switch therapists is a big one. Sometimes, there are barriers to getting the care you need. Accessing therapy online for mental health significantly lessens these challenges.
Telehealth offers flexibility and the ability to access therapy from the comfort of your own space. It also eliminates the need to travel, wait in waiting rooms, or navigate public spaces in a way that might feel hard, depending on where you’re at in your journey.
Locating an LGBTQ therapist has never been easier (even though it’s still hard).
Find a therapist who understands the unique needs of LGBTQ people, so you feel validated and fully seen as a queer person. FOLX mental health services support anxiety, depression, sleep, gender identity, LGBTQ issues, and medication management. All of this is offered via telehealth.
Exploring mental health medication
Frequently, medication and therapy are provided by two different providers. A psychiatrist for medication and a therapist for therapy. Finding two providers who are LGBTQIA or LGBTQ-affirming might seem impossible. FOLX offers a convenient combination of both medication management and talk therapy services.
If your initial visit goes well, consider sticking with that therapist for a few months. After the session, check in with yourself and review your goals for mental health treatment to see if you feel on track.
While opening the door for care, understand that the first session is still about getting to know each other and ensuring you can work towards your goals well together. Many therapists even use the first three sessions to make sure it is a good fit, and you can do the same.
Remember to set goals for yourself about how you want your journey with therapy to feel. If your initial visit goes well, consider sticking with that therapist for at least a few months and plan to check in with yourself.
- Review your goals for mental health treatment and see if you feel you're on track.
- Define what success for you looks like. Success can include feeling more positive, less anxious, feeling like you have the energy to go out more, or communicating better with your friends, family, significant others, and coworkers.
- Set realistic goals you feel you can achieve and take them one step at a time.
If you don't feel heard or understood, or the vibe seems seriously off, it's okay to move onto someone else. The same goes if your therapist says something invalidating. You're not obligated to work with this person. You don't owe the therapist an explanation why; it's not your job to make sure they understand why it's not a good fit. Of course, if you feel comfortable, you can share feedback–though it’s not necessary or an obligation to do so.
While therapy can be transformative and healing for queer people, it must be with a therapist who affirms the LGBTQIA community. Whether a therapist identifies as queer or is doing the outside work to show up for their queer clients, your mental health provider should be well-versed in evidence-based practices for LGBTQ people. Your therapist should be empathetic, educated, and competent. You deserve to show up authentically as your whole self in the safe space therapy provides.
Find mental health care that fits your life with FOLX's mental health offerings. Sign up for a FOLX membership to get LGBTQ-affirming mental health care, including peer support groups and access to FOLX's Community Platform.
FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include expert, gender-affirming virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone, mental health care, sexual health care, and preventative care. We offer FOLX memberships that give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ referrals, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare with FOLX. FOLX Health is healthcare that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!