LGBTQ+ Affirming Counseling
What is LGBTQ+ Affirming Counseling?
Affirming counseling for LGBTQ+ persons aims to meet an individual wherever they’re at and help them learn, grow, and – above all – love themselves. It emphasizes acceptance and affirmation of a person’s lived experience. All major mental health organizations in the US, including the APA, ACA, and the NASW, strongly oppose any treatment that is based on the assumption that homosexuality or gender identity conflict are mental health disorders or that a person should change his or her homosexual orientation. This includes so called practices such as “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy.”
In supportive therapy, you can speak confidentially with a licensed therapist who is familiar with issues facing people of diverse sexualities and genders. Supportive therapy can help with exploring your gender identity or expression, exploring your sexual orientation, coming out to others, identifying and managing depression, anxiety, or gender dysphoria, and dealing with discrimination or bullying. Your therapist can also help with concerns such as relationship issues, sexual problems, parenting matters, and addiction. In other words, you can talk about any concerns you have, whether they are specific to your sexual orientation or gender identity or not.
What’s the Big Deal?
Currently 1 in 20 identify as LGBTQ+ in the US, and many others (as many as 1 in 5) experience non-hetero sexual attraction or gender dysphoria but still identify as heterosexual or cisgender. While not all members of the LGBTQ+ community will have the same experiences, discrimination, prejudice, harassment, rejection, and religious persecution are common experiences for many.
As a result:
- LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition.
- LGBTQ people are at a higher risk than the general population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
- High school LGB students are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
- 48% of all transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4% of the overall US population.
What Can I Do to Help?
For loved ones, it may be helpful to know that there are factors that build resilience and strongly protect LGBTQ+ people (especially youth) from mental health concerns, such as:
- Acceptance by family of origin (e.g., parents, siblings, grandparents, children).
- Having a supportive social network made up of LGBTQ friends, allies, and family of choice (close relationships with people who are not biologically related but who act as a family).
- Access to and use of LGBTQ inclusive medical and mental health.
Various resources and organizations:
- The Trevor Project (24-hour crisis intervention, online social networking, educational programs)
- Peer Listening Line (anonymous and confidential help for accessing support for coming out, information, and referrals from other LGBTQ+ youth)
- It Gets Better Project (empowers and connects LGTBQ+ youth through education and inspiring stories)
- PFLAG (promoting family and community support)
- Family Acceptance Project (health and mental health support for LGBTQ+ youth and their families)
- The Reformation Project (specifically focused on LGBTQ inclusion within Christianity)
- Torn, Washed and Waiting (Two different but related books written by Justin Lee and Wesley Hill respectively, focused on Christianity and sexuality and the “Side A, Side B” discussion)
- Unashamed (A book specifically addressing the process of coming out within a Christian context)