GAY,LESBIAN,BISEXUAL,TRANSGENDERED? FIND AN AFFIRMING THERAPIST.

A lesbian, bisexual, transgendered* or gay man can find themselves in a therapist's office for the same reasons that bring anyone in for help. But it can be difficult for someone in the GLBTG community to find an affirming, supportive therapist.

The position of the American Psychological Association is that homosexuality is NOT a psychological disorder. Research also has shown that psychotherapeutic treatment to change sexual orientation does not work. Nor is it ethical for a professional to approach a GLBTG client with the intention of trying to change their sexual/affectional orientation. That having been said, how do you screen for an appropriate therapist if you are gay?

*The transgendered (or transsexual) client may have special needs in therapy, an important one being to get help in the process of sex reassignment and to have support in the decisions they will make about their gender.


SOME PREDISPOSING FACTORS:

As a prospective therapy client, you can keep these factors in the back of your mind as you are interviewing or screening your therapist.

It has been shown that therapists who are the most likely to hold unfavorable attitudes toward the GLBTG client tend to:

1. Have less contact with gay men and Lesbians in their own personal lives;

2. See their colleagues and peers as also having these negative attitudes;

3. Be male;

4. Be more likely to come from rural backgrounds in their adolescence;

5. Be more religious;

6. Be older and less educated;

7. Be more likely to adhere to traditional sex roles;

8. Be less liberal about sex in general or have more guilt or negativity about sex;

9. Be authoritarian in that they see the world in a rigid, black and white fashion.



THE SEARCH:

When looking for a GLBTG affirming therapist:

1. Ask your friends for recommendations!

2. Look in any local gay newspapers, newsletters, or directories for therapists;

3. When looking in the yellow pages or mainstream advertising, see if they list GENDER ISSUES, OR ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLES or mention that they are GLBGT supportive;

4. Look on bulletin boards in any Women's Centers, bookstores, or alternative organizations;

5. Call your local GLBTG organizations (e.g., a nearby college) for recommendations;

6. Go on line.





WOULD YOU LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION?

THE PHONE CALL:

When it is time to set up an appointment with a prospective therapist, you may want to ask these questions or make these comments directly:

1. You might ask directly if the therapist is "gay friendly". If they are, they will usually know what this means and will respond with a yes;

2. Approaching from another angle, you might ask them about their approach to changing sexual orientation. (Any attempt to present a treatment or therapy here may indicate that the therapist believes you can be "cured");

3. You could ask about their professional background and see if they've worked somewhere that might indicate a liberal bias, like a Woman's Shelter, Rape Crisis Center, or AIDS Counseling Center;

4. You could ask about their professional affiliations. The American Psychological Association (APA) has a division focusing on GLBTG issues and so do other professional organizations;

5. If the therapist is asking about your life situation, notice the choices he/she makes in her inquiries. Are you asked about your husband or wife, or does she/he use inclusive words like, "partner", "significant other", etc;

6. If you are a woman and refer to your partner as "she", or "he" if you are a man, can you notice any bias in the therapists voice or response or subsequent questions;

7. Ask whether he or she has any GLBTC clients, or has worked with this population in the past;

8. Simply tell her that you are gay or transgendered (or are wondering) and are looking for a supportive therapist.

9. Ask the therapist how s/he views "Alternative Lifestyles";

10. It is not a good idea to ask the therapist about her own sexual orientation over the phone. Unfortunately, this is a matter of safety....because of the possibility of harrassment, the therapist may not feel comfortable with this.



STARTING THERAPY:

Once you have made your appointment, the screening process is not over. Feel free to discontinue therapy at any time you feel you are being discriminated against in any way. Some things to look for are:

1. Responses that suggest your therapist doesn't want you to be gay. Too much emphasis on your sexual orientation when you do not present it as an issue.

2. Any unfounded feedback about sexual orientation being a result of some type of pathology: distant father, controlling mother, broken home, etc. This sounds like you need to be cured. (And, by the way, there is no evidence to suggest that sexual orientation is the result of any such pathology).

3. Any reference to programs that focus on changing one's sexual orientation. Even if it's..."Have you heard of.....".

4. The liberal response which suggests that lesbians and gay men, bi's and TG's are "just like everybody else". As if being a Lesbian, for example, has no meaning.

5. The inadequate response from the therapist in taking a full history, or asking about your relationship, etc. In other words, avoiding the issue.

6. You will pick up on more subtle cues from your therapist. Just trust your instincts and how you feel. Look for things such as surprise when you say you've been in a gay relationship for some duration, or you have had no trauma in your life, or you like being gay.

7. At any point in your therapy, feel free to discuss your concerns with your therapist. If he or she seems open and willing to take a look at his/her biases, you may opt to stay. However, it is crucial that you believe your therapist to be affirming and supportive. Don't hesitate to find somebody who is.