A gay therapist does exactly what any other therapeutic professional might do, but takes into consideration the sexual orientation of his or her clients. In general, any therapist should be capable of working with patients of any sexual orientation, but some individuals feel more comfortable working with a professional who is explicitly gay affirmative. Gay therapists are not always gay themselves, but being gay can also make the patient feel that he or she has more in common with the professional. Issues addressed by a gay therapist can cover problems unrelated to sexual orientation, but sexual orientation can be the primary subject of therapy as well.
Many homosexual people experience mental health problems, just like many heterosexual people. When seeking treatment, it is usually necessary to build trust between the patient and therapist. A gay therapist is often more able to build trust with a gay patient, whether or not the mental health problem has anything to do with being gay. This is because, in some psychiatric circles, being gay has itself been treated as a mental disorder, and it is difficult for some gay people to find therapists who are able to treat homosexuality as non-deviant behavior.
When a person seeks mental health treatment for issues of sexual identity, seeing a gay therapist can often be a way of seeking mentorship or even general advice about homosexuality. Relationship help for gay couples can also be easier with an explicitly gay-affirmative therapist. In these cases, the therapist's special understanding of gay sociology and community dynamics can be important to the success of the therapy.
Certain issues primarily affecting gay individuals can be more easily addressed by a gay therapist than other types of therapists. Coping with gay relationship issues, HIV/AIDS, or coming out of the closet may be easier with a gay-affirmative professional. Whether or not the therapist is gay, he or she must be an expert in the physical realities of life as a gay person. This includes understanding sexual practices as well as cultural traditions of the gay community in a specific area.
Given the many classifications of sexuality other than heterosexuality, it is common for a gay therapist to work with lesbian, bisexual, and even transgender people. The focus of this type of therapist is usually sexuality, but sexuality can impact many different areas of life. In any case, it is important to make sure that any therapist providing treatment is appropriately trained and licensed, even if he or she is insightful and experienced in this field. Seeing an unlicensed therapist can be dangerous even if he or she appears insightful.