Although a person’s sexual or romantic orientation or gender identity may not be a source of distress, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, or any other orientation or gender identity may find that the social stigma of living as a minority is a source of stress or anxiety.
When seeking therapy, whether for issues associated with one’s sexual, romantic, or gender identity or for concerns related to mental health, finding a qualified mental health professional who has experience and familiarity with the challenges members of the LGBTQIA+ community often face can be critical to successful therapy outcomes..
Though many therapists may be qualified to help, sometimes LGBTQ clients feel more comfortable with an LGBTQ therapist, or at least with a therapist who specializes in or has a great deal of experience with LGBTQ issues. Such therapists are not available in every community, but more and more therapists and counselors are providing distance services by phone or over the Internet, and this may help broaden a person’s search for the right therapist. People considering gender confirmation surgery are often required to seek therapy before undergoing surgery. A specialist in this area, if available, is recommended.
Early editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) identified homosexuality as a mental disorder, until clinical research demonstrated sexual or romantic attraction to someone of the same gender is a normal, healthy, positive form of human sexuality. Despite the mental health community’s decades-long affirmation of all sexual orientations, sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) are still provided by some therapists and pursued by some people who feel conflicted about their sexual orientation. Several organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, oppose sexual orientation change therapy, also known as conversion or reparative therapy, and many states either have banned the practice or are considering bills to ban the practice, particularly for minors. Furthermore, the ethics of the professions of social work, psychology, psychiatry, and marriage and family counseling mandate that therapists provide services to all people without discrimination.