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Attending therapy can be a daunting occurrence. Speaking from personal experience, I am all too aware of that sick feeling one can get in their stomach as the apprehension takes over. Going to a therapy session can be scary enough, but sometimes more so if you are gay.
When I attended therapy for the first time I had a real fear that my therapist would not be accepting of gay people; that I would talk about my life and the difficulties in it only to be faced with a negative attitude and disapproval of my lifestyle. My fears were unfounded though and I discovered that my therapist was open-minded and empathetic of my situation. But then, aren’t all therapists like that?
In my experience, yes. Now working as a therapist, it was part of the training that we covered working with LGBT clients. We spoke about same-sex relationships, different sexualities and genders, and how to work with that client group. Everyone on my course embraced that aspect of the training and remained open-minded and empathetic in the practical sessions, where one person assumed the role of the therapist and the other an LGBT client.
In my practice I specialise in working with several different client groups. One of those is LGBT people. The main motivation for that is because I want to provide a service where that particular client group feel they do not have to worry about disclosing their sexuality or gender identity. I do not reveal my own sexuality to clients as the therapeutic process is not about me, but I imagine that people going to see a therapist who specialises in working with LGBT people must be LGBT themselves. It is a sensible assumption to make.
But then perhaps an LGBT client may not consider that I am a gay man. They may not be aware that I specialise in working with that demographic. They may not consider that I have been through the same feelings of worry and apprehension as they are feeling. As a client sits in my therapy room worrying about disclosing their sexuality and whether I accept it, they will not realise that I have been in that same position, as many LGBT therapists have been.
Of course we are all aware that there are some therapists who do not approve of gay people and there have been some extreme cases reported, where gay people have been through the trauma of having a therapist try to ‘cure’ them. It’s a sad fact that it does exist, but there are procedures in place that can lead to such therapists being struck off.
All therapists should belong to a professional body. It is important that you check that out. If a therapist is not a member of a professional body such as the BACP or the National Counselling Society then I advise against seeing them. Being a member of a professional body ensures that the therapist has to abide by their code of conduct. If a therapist is not accepting of your sexuality then you can complain to that body and they will investigate. Any therapist attempting to ‘cure’ someone of being gay will be struck off.
As a profession, counsellors are accepting of different sexualities, genders and lifestyles. We are trained to work with all people in a professional, confidential and empathetic way. So don’t be afraid of disclosing your sexuality. It will be ok and your therapist will work with you in the same professional way they work with everyone else.
If you feel you would benefit from counselling and would prefer to see a therapist who is LGBT friendly, check out Pink Therapy. They have an online directory of therapists who work with LGBT clients. Alternatively, do your research. Have a look at several options and contact them first to see if they could work with a particular issue or someone of your orientation. It’s worth doing as it provides you with an opportunity to find out whether they are the right person for you without having to meet them first.