It’s June, which also happens to be Pride Month – and there’s no better way to start it off than by addressing the need for queer-affirmative therapy and the need for more queer-affirmative therapists. But before we delve into the why, let’s look at the what.
Queer-affirmative therapy is “an approach to therapy that embraces a positive view of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) identities and relationships and addresses the negative influences that homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism have on the lives of LGBTQ clients,” (NDSU).
This approach is said to be affirmative because of how it affirms the experiences of individuals from the community, especially since they have been marginalized. Affirmation becomes important because the therapist would not look to prescribe a cure for your experiences but rather affirm how the psych-social reality has affected you.
While there is no particularly different school of queer-affirmative therapy and it uses the same principles as standard therapy, the need for affirmative therapy arises because of various other issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community along with those faced by heterosexual individuals.
Those who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community face several unique life stressors as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. From issues at home like familial acceptance to issues in their work-life – discrimination and “fitting in”, to self-acceptance.
All of these stressors have a significant impact on the mental health of the individual, and a queer-affirmative therapist would take all of this into account.
Sexuality, gender identity, and everything in between – all of this is very difficult to navigate when you are not exposed to the right kind of information or experiences. For queer individuals, understanding their gender and sexuality, and then coming to terms with it is perhaps always a lengthy process – something that also takes a significant toll on your mental health.
Your therapist would help you throughout this journey of understanding yourself and coming to terms with it.
There is also a severe dearth of information in the Indian context when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. Literature on topics like safe sex, romantic relationships, mental health issues, and support groups and organizations is not easily accessible to those who don’t know much about their sexuality and gender.
A queer-affirmative therapist would be able to provide you with these resources easily in order to educate you and also guide you.
First things first – they should claim that they are a queer affirmative therapist. It’s always a good idea to check their profile once which is where they should mention clearly they are queer-affirmative.
You can also check for organizations that certify mental health care practitioners in queer-affirmative therapy. It is important for you to know if your therapist is in fact certified.
Another way could be to get in touch with local LGBTQIA+ communities or with someone who identifies as queer and ask for recommendations.
You could also look for support groups on social media and get in touch with therapists from there.
It’s always a good idea to have a word with the therapist you choose before your first session to understand whether or not they are truly queer affirmative and if they are open to your identity.