How to Find a Queer-Friendly or Gender Affirming Therapist
By Amber Leventry
No matter your identity or background, supporting your mental health is important. It can be scary to ask for help or overwhelming to figure out where to begin when you decide you want or need someone to talk to. It can be even harder if you’re in the LGBTQIA+ community, because finding a queer-competent therapist could be more difficult or take longer. But it’s worth the effort to find someone who is deeply familiar with the issues you may be going through—someone who just gets it.
Whether you have a sense of your identity or you’re still trying to figure it out, you deserve to talk to someone who will support your journey as you explore this piece of yourself.
Here things to consider when looking for LGBTQIA+ mental health support:
- Are you out to your parents or guardians? How do you think they’d feel knowing you’re seeking an LGBTQIA-supportive therapist? Will they help you find someone?
- Do you want to find a mental health professional who identifies as LGBTQIA+ or is an ally OK?
- Do you have insurance that will cover some of the cost of therapy?
- If you are on a parent’s insurance plan, do they support your decision to find a therapist?
- Do you want to find a person or group who understands the intersection of race and culture with queerness?
It’s important to remember that it may take a couple of tries to find the perfect match. It’s part of the process, and it’s worth the effort because you are taking care of yourself and getting the support you need.
Finding a Therapist When You Have Parental Support
If you’re comfortable asking a parent or guardian to help you find a therapist but you aren’t ready to come out to them, that’s OK. You don’t need to tell them the specifics of what you want to discuss.
If your parent or guardian presses for details about why you want to go to therapy, try saying, “Life is stressful and I want a place to talk about it.”
Once you have that conversation, these will likely be the next steps:
- Visit your family doctor for a referral.
- Look for clinics that specialize in working with the LGBTQIA+ community and check to see if they accept your insurance.
- Verify insurance-approved therapists.
- Set up an appointment with an available therapist.
- Share information with them at a pace that feels comfortable.
What to Do If You Don’t Have Parental Support
If you don’t have the financial or emotional support at home that allows you to access a therapist through typical paths, there are free crisis lines and support groups. Community and support are vital to your mental health, and both can be found online if not in person.
You can also speak to a high school counselor, primary-care physician, or clinician on your college campus.
When looking for an adult you feel comfortable talking to about LGBTQIA+ topics, look for signs of allyship. It could be pride flags, pronoun pins, or LGBTQIA-inclusive books in their office. You could also ask the counselor or provider if they are comfortable talking about gender and sexuality topics.
Where to Find an LGBTQIA-Affirming Therapist
- Look for providers who have had LGBTQIA+ training or specifically mention their work with queer youth.
- Look for the use of a counselor’s pronouns in their bio.
- Search the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a state-by-state guide on where to find LGBTQIA+ health-care services, including affirming mental health providers.
- Check out the National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network for a state-by-state directory that helps queer and trans people of color get the mental health care they need.
Telehealth Is an Option
You may not be able to see an affirming therapist in your area because of a lack of availability or long waiting lists. That’s where telehealth can be helpful.
An affirming telehealth counselor may be easier to find than an in-person therapist, and your insurance should cover it if the person is licensed in your state. Check with your insurance and the provider before scheduling your first appointment.
Services on Campus
Many colleges offer free or low-cost on-campus counseling services for students. A campus clinician can work with you to find the best treatment plan for your needs, including an LGBTQIA-affirming therapist.
It may take weeks or even months to find the right therapist, but supporting your mental health will be one of the most rewarding acts of kindness you will give to yourself.