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WHAT IS LGBTQIA+ AFFIRMATIVE THERAPY?

It's one of our specialties. We'd love to explain.

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First, How About a Little Context? 

By adolescence and adulthood, LGBTQIA+ individuals have been exposed to messages that can breed negativity and toxic shame. Throughout history, such folks were marginalized, discriminated against, and provided with care that wasn't designed for them but for our heteronormative society. 

 

Over recent decades, psychologists and other healthcare providers began to recognize the unique needs of the  LGBTQIA+ community, beginning with the advent of "gay affirmative therapy" in the early 1980s and progressing much more since the early 2000s.

Today, all of the major mental healthcare organizations have voiced a firm commitment to ensuring the equal treatment and dignity of all LGBTQ individuals. To be honest, though, regulations are still unfolding. In 2021, the American Psychological Association updated their 2009 guidelines and finally banned sexual orientation "conversion therapy," and any attempts to change gender identity. Even though those are the official rules, many LGBTQIA+ folks hesitate to work with a mental health provider who is forced to recognize their sexuality and/or gender identity. Rightly so, they seek safe spaces that promote openness, honesty, and an atmosphere in which their needs, preferences, and relationships are not just tolerated but validated. This is how our LGBTQIA+ clients tend to find us. 

How Do LGBTQIA+ Therapists Make a Difference?

 

An LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist might or might not be a member of the very community that they serve. Such therapists not only identify as interested in and sensitive to LGBTQIA+ lives, they possess specific training in working with them, pertinent lived experiences, and ongoing consultation or accountability measures. From the beginning, affirmative therapists work hard to hone their skills and to ensure their clients’ comfort.

 

When it comes to the focus of treatment, affirmative therapists remain open and do not assume that their client’s reasons for seeking therapy are necessarily related to sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, they follow their client’s lead, keeping in mind that LGBTQIA+ individuals might find themselves in varied stages of identity development. For instance, individuals suffering with anxiety might feel insecure in one area of their lives but stable and secure in their gender identity. Others might remain anxious and sensitive to others’ reactions or feel preoccupied with being misunderstood, disrespected, or marginalized. With this in mind, an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist creates a secure space for individuals to explore their concerns, work within the relationship, and get to know the aspects of their own unique identity.

 

Clients and Therapists: It's All About the Right Fit

 

As is the case with any client, it is very important to find a therapist that understands and can provide a strong working alliance. In short, the client and therapist need to be a good fit. For LGBTQIA+ clients, it is also important that their therapist is competent in terms of the research, cultural norms, language, use of preferred pronouns, and variations in identity, dating, sexual practices, non-monogamy, and other arrangements that clients might be experiencing or interested in.

 

More broadly, LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapists are aware of the power that they hold within the therapy setting. They examine their own biases before working with clients and are diligent in their commitment to treating LGBTQIA+ individuals with the respect and dignity that they deserve. In many cases, LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapists directly inform their clients of their affirmative status. If this does not happen, clients are encouraged to ask!

 

The Skyline Psych Team: LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapists

At Skyline Psychotherapy & Assessment Services, PLLC, our therapists strongly identify as LGBTQIA+ Affirmative. We offer our clients our lived experiences, training, commitment, consultation, self-reflection, and never-ending drive to improve. In addition to affirmative therapy, our psychologists are also able to conduct assessments and write letters in support of gender affirming surgery. 

Ask us how we can help! Our therapists are happy to work with individuals, couples, and families that span the full spectrum of LGBTQIA+ identities. 

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