What Is LGBTQ Counseling & Why All Of Those Letters?!?
LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning/Queer. Sometimes the abbreviation is expanded to include an “I” for Intersexed, which refers to an individual whose “biological” sex neither fits the reproductive criteria for male nor female; or an “A” for Asexual.
Reciting all of those letters feels a little like playing gender-correct Sesame Street sometimes! And yet, each of those abbreviations conveys a profound sense of weight. Although our society has become more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, there are so many issues in our community that are more complex than can be summarized under the umbrella of “gay” issues.
Although many of our therapy concerns are identical to those of heterosexual folks, here are seven issues that are unique:
Seven Counseling & Therapy Topics That are Unique to Gender & Sexual Minorities:
- Coming out as LGBTQ+: resolving your internal struggle regarding gender and sexual orientation confusion or internalized homophobia (internalized homophobia: when absorbing anti-gay messages from your society, religion, culture, or family has generated feelings of shame or denial concerning your LGBTQ+ identity); coming out to yourself (foremost), and then to friends, family, peers, or the workplace (a personal choice); how to handle dating a partner who identifies as “closeted” when you yourself are openly LGBTQ+
- Processing emotions of gender dysphoria: when your “biological” sex misaligns with your core sense of gender identity and causes you personal distress; supporting a child who self-identifies as transgender or gender-fluid; researching the possibility for transition, altering your outward appearance to reflect your internal gender identity (e.g. vocal training, modifying your dress, hormonal therapies, puberty blockers, top surgery, sex reassignment procedures, etc.) in interested candidates
- Prejudice & Discrimination: survival techniques for inhabiting environments where LGBTQ+ individuals are regarded as deviant, mentally ill, sinful, or lesser; taking a stand against discrimination and harassment in the workplace; contending with unequal treatment by housing or adoption agencies, or political infrastructures that deny your human rights
- Rejection: how to proceed when your family members or friends respond to your coming out moment with hostility or disapproval; restructuring your life after being kicked out of your parent’s home or having mom and dad cut you off financially; integrating your partner into your family life when mom and dad still love you… but express strong opposition to your lifestyle
- Violence & Bullying: name-calling, cyberbullying, & violence. LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to encounter harassment at school or from strangers than their heterosexual counterparts; of the LGBTQ+ population, transgender women are most likely to be singled-out as targets for hate-motivated assaults—or even homicide. Learn how to ensure your safety, respond to escalating antagonism wisely, and confront administrative or legal entities (i.e. the school system, police, etc.) that may demonstrate unresponsiveness to promoting tolerance or your protection
- Anxiety about HIV/AIDS: get connected to accurate information concerning transmission, prevention, and treatment for HIV; learn how to discuss your HIV status with former, current, or future partners; develop a plan for navigating serodiscordant relationships (in which one partner is diagnosed with HIV but the other is not); and receive support for post-diagnosis depression, fear, or stigmatization
- Mental health: get help for mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, substance abuse—and for gay and bisexual men—eating disorders, that affect LGBTQ+ populations in disproportionate numbers
How Can LGBTQ Therapy & Counseling Help Me?
Working with a counselor who is qualified to respond to LGBTQ issues with understanding and care can help you address your therapeutic concerns—even if your issue does not overtly relate to your status as a member of the LGBTQ community. A competent counselor who is trained in LGBTQ issues can help you appreciate the multi-layered cultural and societal concerns that may factor into your situation or wire your thought processes (even outside of your awareness).
As counseling options, your therapist may recommend:
- Individual counseling: to address any of the unique issues outlined above or a specific mental health concern, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.
- LGBTQ support groups: to encourage networking and a sense of community with your LGBTQ peers, and to expose you to a range of LGBTQ narratives that are both related to and distinct from your own experiences
- Couples counseling: which should acknowledge where relevant, the extraordinary stressors that are placed upon LGBTQ persons, individually and collectively, and help you process these challenges as they arise in the context of your relationship
- Family counseling: which recognizes the spectrum of issues faced by LGBTQ families, from pursuing adoption rights to planning birth to raising children with two mommies or two daddies, etc.
Whether you seek individual counseling to address a mental health concern, couples counseling to enhance the quality of your relationship, or family counseling to bond more deeply as a unit, your therapist should view your situation free from the lens of bias and make you feel at ease. At Lifeologie, we pride ourselves on addressing the many facets that create the “whole” person: LGBTQ+–and beyond.