Given how intimate the patient-therapist relationship is, it is important for patients to find a clinician who shares or deeply understands their identity. That’s why many patients seek out queer-competent therapists. Finding an LGBTQIA+-competent therapist can seem like a daunting task, and it may be even more difficult for patients in rural areas. For example, someone looking for therapy in Charlotte NC, an urban area, might have an easier time finding a queer-competent therapist than someone in rural Oregon. However, there are some ways to gauge whether a therapist is LGBTQIA-affirming. Here are eight signs that a therapist is queer-competent:
- They are involved in the LGBTQIA+ community – Look for credentials indicating the therapist is active in or has undergone training specific to LGBTQIA+ issues. These can include workshops, conferences, or seminars focused on the LTBTQIA+ population.
- They are careful about language – A queer-competent therapist will always use language that respects people’s sexual orientation and gender identity. They should never, for example, refer to someone by their former name, and they ask about pronouns rather than assuming.
- They ask questions – A queer-competent therapist will ask questions to make sure they have an accurate understanding of a patient’s identity and experiences. This can include asking about pronouns, family history, relationships, and more.
- They understand that gender and sexuality are spectrums – There is no one “right” way to identify or experience gender or sexuality. A queer-competent therapist will understand this and help patients explore their own identities without judgment.
- They are included in a directory of queer-competent therapists –
- They offer referrals to LGBTQIA+ organizations – A queer-competent therapist will be able to suggest local and online resources that are tailored specifically to the queer community.
- They understand various types of discrimination – Even if a therapist hasn’t experienced a type of discrimination firsthand, they should understand how oppression and discrimination can affect mental health. They should also be prepared to discuss these issues if they come up.
- They prioritize safety and comfort – A queer-competent therapist will work to ensure patients feel safe in their sessions, both emotionally and physically. This means being aware of any power dynamics between the patient and therapist, respecting boundaries and consent, and making sure the patient is comfortable with what’s being discussed.
Some therapists allow for a short telephone consultation with potential patients to get to know each other. Patients can ask the therapist questions about their competency around LGBTQIA+ issues and any relevant training and experience. It may take some time to find the right therapist, but it’s worth the effort. With a queer-competent therapist, LGBTQIA+ patients can feel secure in knowing they have someone who is prepared to work with them and committed to providing the best care possible.