I’m Gay. Do I Need a Queer Therapist?

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A question that many queer individuals ask themselves when seeking therapy is, “Do I need a queer therapist or is a straight therapist okay?” The answer to that is – it depends! Finding the appropriate fit of therapist is vital for the success of therapy, and the reason that you are seeking therapy that may impact the type of therapist (gay therapist, straight or otherwise!) you are looking for.

Whenever looking for a new individual, couples, group or family therapist, it is important to get a better understanding of the aspects of a therapist that are most important to you and to ensure that you feel safe within the therapeutic space. For queer people, that entails finding a therapist that is LGBTQ+ affirming, and for some individuals, it is important to have a therapist that is not only LGBTQ+ affirming but identifies within the LGBTQ+ community as well.

What is an LGBTQ+ Affirming Therapist? queer couple

An LGBTQ+ affirming therapist is a mental health professional, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, that is trained in an approach to therapy that embraces a positive view of LGBTQ+ and all sexual identities and relationships and acknowledges the negative influences that homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism have on LGBTQ+ folx (NDSU).

For queer/bi/trans/gay people, it is a necessity that their therapist be LGBTQ+ affirming. This allows them to know that their experience will be affirmed and recognized in a positive light within the therapeutic relationship. This also allows for a decrease in fear of being judged or discriminated against within the therapy setting and makes it a safe space for exploration and processing.

Why Some Queer Individuals Seek a Queer Therapist

For some members of the queer community, it is important to find a therapist that identifies as queer so that there is an increased sense of safety and clients don’t feel the need to explain or justify their identity.

  • Establishes a sense of safety. Feeling safe within therapy is one of the most vital aspects of ensuring that therapy is effective. When you know you have a shared experience with your provider, it is one way to take the first step towards feeling understood and comfortable within therapy.
  • Don’t need to explain or justify identity. Oftentimes individuals seek a queer therapist because there is a shared experience that needs no (or at least less) explaining around the nuances of living as a queer individual. There is less energy spent in therapy sessions explaining aspects and nuances about yourself, your relationship issues and your life (which might need more explaining with a cisgender or straight therapist) which allows for more time and energy to be spent on the reason why you are seeking therapy.

Another reason folks might chose to work with a queer therapist is that identity development is what they are seeking therapy for. If the main reason you are seeking therapy is to get support around queer couples therapy or better understanding your sexual and/or gender identity, coming out to family and friends, traumatic experiences related to your sexual or gender identity, or anything related to being queer, it may be important to you to have someone with lived experience in these areas. As stated earlier, it allows for a baseline of quickly establishing a feeling of safety and being understood both in individual therapy and couples or family therapy.

Impact of Non-Affirming Health Services

Health services in general that are not affirming can have a dire impact on those individuals who identify as queer. According to the Trevor Project 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, 56% of youth wanted mental health care but did not receive it. They report some of their reasons for not receiving mental health care were not being out about their LGBTQ identity, fear of being outed, and feeling their sexual orientation or gender identity wouldn’t be understood by the provider.

When you are seeking support such as sexual health or mental health services, and a part of who you are is not recognized or respected, it makes it difficult and scary to reach out for help. The same study found that 41% of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. This exemplifies the need for LGBTQ+ affirming therapy and the importance of finding providers that are supportive of you as a whole.

So, how Do I Find an LGBTQ+ Affirming Therapist

Finding a therapist in general can be hard, especially when balancing all of the different areas that might feel important to have within a therapeutic relationship. In addition, there are resources specific to finding an LGBTQ+ Affirming or queer identifying mental health professionals that can be found at many levels including national, state, and local levels. Here are some as a starting point: lgbtq flag

National Networks and Resources

  • Search Engines such as HelpPRO and Psychology Today allow for you to search with the criteria of LGBTQ+ Affirming and specify your location.
    • https://www.onlinetherapy.com/
    • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network is a national directory that allows you to search for queer and trans therapists of color in your area.
    • https://nqttcn.com/en/

Local Minnesota Networks

  • MN LGBTQ Therapist Network is a statewide directory that allows you to search for therapists who identify within the LGBTQ+ community in your area.
    • https://lgbttherapists.wildapricot.org/

LGBTQ Specific Programs in Minnesota

  • Sentier Psychotherapy is a mental health clinic with multiple therapists identifying within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as, all therapists being LGBTQ+ affirming therapists. The clinic offers family, couples, individual, and group therapy.
    • https://sentiertherapy.com/
  • Reclaim is a mental health clinic that is specialized in offering mental health therapy and resources to queer and trans youth.
    • https://www.reclaim.care/
  • Rainbow Health is a program that works for advocacy of LGBTQ+ individuals and those living with AIDS. They offer resources and mental health services for LGBTQ+ community, those living with HIV, and all folks facing barriers to equitable healthcare.
    • https://rainbowhealth.org/

Don’t be afraid to ask

Regardless of how you find a therapist, it is also important to check directly with them to ensure that they are an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist who is embracing of gay people, transgender people… queer people. Oftentimes, it will be listed in their bio or write-up, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm. As you are searching for a therapist, you are allowed to ask about providers’ training and experience working with people of color or queer individuals, etc. Many times therapists are open to a consultation before starting services to answer questions and address concerns just like these. During that meeting make sure to note the aspects that are most important to you in a therapist including finding affirmative therapy or a therapist who identifies within the queer community themselves.

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Abby Voigt, MSW, LICSW



North Dakota State University. (2020). LGBTQ Affirmative Therapy. AAMFT Queer Affirmative Caucus. https://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/hdfs/documents/misc/Affirmative_therapy_handout.pdf.

The Trevor Project. (2023). 2023 US National Survey on Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People. The Trevor Project. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2023/.

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