I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard clients tell me that they felt unable to be open about their gender and/or sexuality with a previous counsellor.
It saddens me that so many people have felt they’ve had to hide who they are in counselling, a place where it's meant to be ok to talk about anything.
Counselling can feel scary for many LGBTQ+ clients. So many people tell me they choose to see a counsellor who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Keep reading to learn 7 reasons why.
7 reasons why people choose an LGBTQ+ identified counsellor:
1 - To not worry about ‘coming out’
When you don't need to worry about 'coming out' to your counsellor you are be freed up to start to talk about what you need to without wasting loads of time waiting to see if your counsellor is safe enough to open up to.
This can get exhausting as you may find yourself having to hide parts of your life and the relationships you might have.
2 - To avoid risk of having to ‘educate’ their counsellor on LGBTQ+ issues
Are you sick of having to explain your identity to counsellors? Maybe you’re tired of worrying how a counsellor will respond if you mention your sexuality or gender identity. Will you be believed? Will they get it? Do they believe asexuality exists; will they try to fix you? Will you have to explain why you can still be trans and choose not to get any surgery.
You don’t want to have to explain to your counsellor what a heteronormative and cisnormative society means before you can get started on the many ways this impacts you personally.
Why should you have to pay for sessions where they are essentially teaching your counsellor?
3 - To have a shared language of LGBTQ+ terminology
You don't want to have to keep trying out new counsellors and wondering if you will have to educate them about LGBTQ terminology.
You want your counsellor you to know words like GIC, binding, packing, cisgender, bierasure and aromantic.
If you have to define all these words this not only slows things down but also tells you that the counsellor has very little or no experience supporting LGBTQ+ clients so will likely struggle to understand how to help you.
4 - To have pronouns respected
If a counsellor shares their pronouns and asks what pronouns you use it’s usually a good sign that they have thought about why pronouns matter, particularly to many trans and non-binary people.
It’s also pretty common for counsellors who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community to be familiar with pronouns and have practice in their personal lives with sharing and asking for pronouns.
If you use, they/them pronouns or neo pronouns then seeing a counsellor who is LGBTQ+ themselves is likely to give you a better chance that they will respect your pronouns.
Many clients I’ve met have told me they’ve had a bad experience of counselling in the past where they felt they had to explain to a previous counsellor what it means to use a mix of pronouns. And if their counsellor misgendered their partner or friends they felt afraid to correct them.
Your pronouns matter to me.
As a counsellor I’ve written a lot about pronouns and run training courses for counsellors where we cover the importance of pronouns.
5 - To avoid risk of being pathologised
Sadly, conversion therapy is still legal in the UK and there are many counsellors who will try to ‘cure’ you by trying to make you straight or push you to thinking you’re not trans. These counsellors are dangerous and do not help.
I have come across many TERFs / gender critical (another word for transphobic) counsellors on social media so it’s definitely worth doing some research online before choosing a counsellor as they are probably not going to write on their counselling website, but it may be very clear in their tweets and comments.
There are plenty non-LGBTQ+ counsellors out there that could be safe and working affirmatively. However, if a counsellor doesn’t mention anything on their website about their experience/training with LGBTQ+ clients, you have no idea if they are going to practice dangerous therapy on you.
6 - To feel more understood in having a shared background of identifying as LGBTQ
Many clients I meet say that in previous counselling they felt that they haven’t had a shared language and that although they have not necessarily been judged, they didn’t feel fully accepted.
I am not saying that if you are LGBTQ+ you have to see a counsellor who identifies as LGBTQ+. But if you know they have personal lived experience it might help you feel more comfortable to be more open right from the start.
7 - To avoid being your ‘token’ lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer client
Just because someone is LGBTQ+, it doesn’t mean their gender or sexuality is necessarily the reason why they would be seeking therapy. In fact, it is more common that it is not the ‘issue’ they want help with but just part of who they are. When a counsellor has not worked with a trans client before it’s possible that they might make everything about your gender and think that is the root of all your problems or instead ignore your gender completely and avoid talking about it at all.
However not all LGBTQ+ people are the same and our experiences will differ. Just because I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community it doesn't mean I have a shared understanding of everyone in the community.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all when working with LGBTQ+ people, as each person is unique and on an independent journey.
Are you looking for a counsellor?
I am a queer woman with over a decade of experience working in LGBTQ+ organisations in mental health, youth work and counselling.
p.s. If you're a counsellor reading this and are not LGBTQ+ yourself, I just want to clarify that I'm not saying that counsellors must identify as LGBTQ+ to work with LGBTQ+ clients. And just because a counsellor is LGBTQ+ it doesn't mean they are automatically a good counsellor. Being an inclusive counsellor takes training/experience.
If a counsellor doesn’t mention anything on their website about their experience/training with LGBTQ+ clients, you've no idea if they're going to practice dangerous therapy on you. So it's a good idea to check them out first, many people find it helpful to check their business social media.