What Does a Gay Therapist Do?

Tara Barnett

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.

Relationship help for gay couples can be easier with a gay-affirmative therapist.
Relationship help for gay couples can be easier with a gay-affirmative therapist.

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.

Issues addressed by a gay therapist can cover problems unrelated to sexual orientation.
Issues addressed by a gay therapist can cover problems unrelated to sexual orientation.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - A good therapist isn't going to be trying to convince anyone to change themselves. They are supposed to act more like a mirror, showing someone how they currently fit into the world and supporting them in whatever choices they make about either accepting that, or changing it.

I don't think it should impact the sessions at all who the patient happens to be attracted to. It might have made a big difference in their life, but everyone has issues of one sort or anything. The issues might be unique, but the counseling approach should be universally open and supportive.


@irontoenail - Having a poster like that is a good idea, but if I was going to a new therapist I would lay that all out on the table on the first day. Make sure they aren't going to be trying to convince you that you're choosing to be gay or anything like that.

Unfortunately, a therapist has a lot of power that can be used for evil as well as good. And they might not even realize they are doing you wrong by trying to convince you that you should change yourself. This, of course, applies to any aspect of yourself, including your orientation.


I've got to say that it was a relief to me when I first went to my current therapist and saw a poster on the wall proclaiming it to be a safe space for people of all orientations. No matter how open minded you expect someone to be, there is always a little bit of fear in revealing that aspect of yourself, particularly in a place where you are already so vulnerable.

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