Community Healing: Why Is There A Need For LGBTQ Therapy?

Updated October 21, 2021

LGBTQ+ therapy can be a game-changer for people within the LGBTQ+ community. This is because it provides queer people who are struggling or need someone to talk to with a sense of understanding and safety that they may not experience in other mental health care settings. Despite this, not everyone can access the care they need, whether due to a lack of resources or not knowing how to find support. So, why is the need for LGBTQ+ therapy so strong, and what can you do if you need support as a person who is part of the LGBTQ+ community?

Therapy Should Always Be A Safe Space. We're Here To Support You
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What Is LGBTQIA+ Therapy?

First, it can be advantageous to understand the acronym LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, and the plus sign at the end is to include all other identities within the community. There are similar acronyms you may see used, such as LGBTQIA2S+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit.

Like allyship, providers specializing in working with the LGBTQ+ community aren’t just about surface-level acceptance or tolerance. There’s a major difference between the inclusion of a community or demographic group and resources built specifically for that community or demographic group. LGBTQ+ therapy is built for the LGBTQ+ community and their experiences. Therapy should provide a protected, conscious, and empathetic environment where a person can get care from a provider who understands how being LGBTQ+ can inform a person’s experiences.

Why Is There A Need For LGBTQIA+ Therapy?

Marginalized communities are significantly more likely to experience mental health conditions. Especially if you experience marginalization in more ways than one, accessing care can be challenging. Statistics indicate that:

  • LGBTQ+ teenagers are six times more likely to experience a mental health condition when compared to teens who aren’t LGBTQ+.
  • A 2019 survey showed that 3% of LGBTQ+ youth have been harassed or assaulted at school. 59.1% felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 42.5% felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • One in three LGBTQ+ adults is said to face a mental health condition, whereas one in every five adults that are not LGBTQ+ do so.
  • 15% of LGBTQ+ individuals are said to face a Substance Use Disorder, whereas 8% of individuals who are not LGBTQ+ do so.

Discrimination, harassment, and bullying are all known physical and mental health detriments. Research shows that the more discrimination, stigma, and overall marginalization a person faces, the more severe their mental health outcomes are. When the question is, “Why are LGBTQ+ people more likely to experience a mental illness or disorder?” It’s very important to note that the answer relates to the treatment of LGBTQ+ people rather than simply being a part of the community.

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It’s also worth noting that, sometimes it is advantageous to be in a space that’s made with you in mind. If you spend most of your time around straight, cisgender people, especially those who aren’t informed on queer topics, it can be lonely, and you may feel misunderstood.

Discrimination And Stigma In Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare should always be a safe space. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community. Discrimination and stigma from healthcare professionals or providers can show up in various ways. These may include but aren’t limited to the denial of fertility treatment, withholding of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), being turned down for healthcare services (whether those services are related to sexuality and gender or not), and failure to recognize differing sexual experiences as well as experiences surrounding your gender and how they may inform your health or healthcare needs.

The levels in which discrimination and stigma show up in healthcare may vary. Some providers can be outright intolerant, whereas others do not know the LGBTQ+ community and their healthcare needs. Sometimes a provider won’t know that they’re causing harm. Even so, this can be triggering and can serve as a barrier to having your healthcare needs addressed. This is part of why queer-affirming medical and mental health care practices are so vital. It may be harder to find supportive and affirming care in remote areas or areas that are typically less accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

This is why BetterHelp created the platform Pride Counseling, so that people anywhere can remotely access therapy built for the queer community. Read below for some reviews of Pride Counseling therapists, from people facing a range of challenges.

“Petrovnia really knows what she's talking about. I often read and hear about trauma-informed therapy, but Petrovnia is truly trauma-TRAINED therapy and that's made a world of difference in our relationship. She understands my struggles as a person of color and experiences as a trans nonbinary person. With her, I feel imbued with hope that I will be able to heal from my trauma.”

Learn More About Petrovnia McIntosh

“Denise is very thoughtful and I know she is human. She lets me know that it’s ok not to be ok. She also lets me know how proud she is of me and that she is here always. She gets what it means to be a therapist!!”

Learn More About Denise Price

Preventing, Navigating, And Moving Past Discrimination In Healthcare Settings

Everyone deserves to get the mental and physical healthcare they need. Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself against discrimination in healthcare and get the help you need:

  • Seek a provider who is LGBTQ+ affirming. Better yet, see a provider who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves if you can.
  • If you’re seeking surgery or hormone replacement therapy, try to find someone who offers informed consent in your area if possible.
  • Know your rights. Understanding the laws in your area can be helpful in some scenarios where a person may face discrimination, harassment, or even misunderstanding.
  • Do not accept poor treatment as the finish line. See another provider if you do not get adequate treatment from the first person you see. If you can travel and that’s your only option for getting the best care, it may be worth it.
  • Ask questions over the phone before you see a provider in person. This can help you get a feel for their level of knowledge and your level of comfort.
  • Talk to other LGBTQ+ people in your area and share experiences. That way, you can find a provider based on real experiences from other people with similar identities.

It may also be helpful to take someone with you. Many people report that they feel as though they are taken more seriously when another person is present, and it can also be helpful to know that you will have someone there as a witness if your experience is negative. It can also be a matter of moral support.

What Can LGBTQ Individuals Do To Support Their Mental Health?

Some people are not ready to start therapy or counseling, or they cannot start therapy or counseling due to barriers such as cost. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Find a community. There are several ways to do this. You can look for support groups, whether those are virtual or in person, and find the nearest LGBTQ+ resource center.
  • Talk to a trusted person about what you’re going through. Consider using a hotline if you aren’t comfortable speaking with someone in your personal life (such as a friend or family member) and need a safe space.
  • Use self-care and self-compassion. Validate your feelings and give yourself compassion. Inner child work is helpful for many people in healing past wounding or working through trauma. Additionally, if you are an activist and feel burnt out, remember that it’s okay to take time for yourself.
  • Use other resources, such as hotlines, books, and podcasts made for the LGBTQ+ community. It can be incredibly joyful to consume media created by other queer people, which may be something to seek out.

If you can access therapy or are wondering what’s available to you, explore your options. Many people find group therapy, individual therapy, or both to be beneficial. Finding group therapy built specifically for the queer community or a specific demographic (for example, group therapy designed specifically for transgender people, group therapy designed specifically for LGBTQ+ people of a specific age group, and so on) can be invaluable.

How To Be An Ally/Support The LGBTQ Community

Therapy Should Always Be A Safe Space. We're Here To Support You
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Here are some ways to support the LGBTQ+ community:

  • First and foremost, listen to and believe in the LGBTQ+ community. If someone speaks on their experiences or needs, listen. Remember that LGBTQ+ people are the experts on their own experiences. If someone comes out, believe them, and if someone speaks on an experience of marginalization, discrimination, or harassment, believe them. Remember that even if you have not seen certain types of homophobia or transphobia before, it does not mean that these experiences don’t exist.
  • Be willing to acknowledge and work through your own potential biases. Although it may be uncomfortable, we can all have biases, and addressing them is the only way to work through them.
  • Stand up for the community in social settings. Take some of the weight off the backs of LGBTQ+ people by speaking up when you hear homophobic or transphobic remarks. You may also ask specific people in your life how you can support them, especially when they first come out or bring up a specific battle they’re facing. For example, you may ask a transgender friend who comes out to you if they’d like for you to correct other people who do not use the correct pronouns for them.
  • Get involved where it counts. Contact lawmakers and vote against anti-LGBTQ+ laws such as those restricting transgender children from healthcare.

Stand up not just for people you see as palatable or comfortable for you to stand up for, but for everyone within the community, including the most marginalized.

If you are an LGBTQ+ person who is struggling, there is hope. Therapy is a process, and it is not a replacement for emergency or crisis care. If you need immediate support and are looking for someone to speak with, contact one of the hotlines below:

LGBT National ​Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

RAINN: 1-800-656-4673

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