How to find an LGBTQIA+-supportive therapist

Whether you are experiencing hardship, or just need someone you can talk to, it helps to have an expert, like a therapist, who can help. And if you identify as LGBTQIA+, it might be important to find a culturally-competent therapist who understands the needs of your community.

Although friends and family can help, sometimes it takes a trained therapist to provide the perspective and support you need. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), therapy can lead to better mental health outcomes.1

While not every LGBTQIA+ person experiences mental health challenges, many in the community do. People who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are more than twice as likely to experience a mental health condition — especially depression and anxiety.1

But, no matter where you are on your journey, you may find it helpful to talk to an outside person who can give you safe, nonjudgmental guidance. Read on for tips to help you find an LGBTQIA+-supportive therapist.

Starting your search for a therapist

Finding someone who understands the issues you face and supports and respects your identity is important. Whether you’re experiencing bullying or harassment, facing a life challenge and/or a mental health concern like anxiety or depression, here are a few ways to start your search.

Ask for a referral

You can start by asking friends or your primary care provider for referrals or references. This can be an easy way to get started, and help you find a therapist who others may vouch for or are familiar with.

Search online for an LGBTQ+-supportive therapist

You can use websites like GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ+ Equality (go to the “find a provider” tab). You can search by provider type and get help finding therapists who are LGBTQIA+-supportive.

If you’re a UnitedHealthcare member, find a LGBTQ+ supportive therapist by starting a provider search. Choose Behavioral Health Directory, then select your type of plan, choose your plan name (found on your member ID card) and then search “LGBTQ Supportive.”

Other sites to search:

Look for support groups

Some people prefer talking to others who are going through the same things they are. Look for therapist-led support groups with a specific focus, such as gay men or parents of LGBTQIA+ youth for instance. Another benefit: Group therapy may be less expensive than 1-on-1 therapy.

Consider online therapy

If you live in a place where there aren’t many LGBTQIA+-supportive therapists, consider telehealth with a remote provider. You can talk to a therapist using your smartphone or laptop without having to commute long distances. Virtual therapy may also be more affordable than in-person appointments.

If you’re a UnitedHealthcare member, sign in to your member account to learn what benefits may be available to you.

What to look for in a therapist

You likely want a therapist who’s a good listener, is empathetic and helps you feel comfortable being open about your needs. To find a therapist that fits your criteria, try these tips:

Read online profiles to learn about their experience

Most therapists have online sites where they discuss their practice and qualifications. See how much experience they have serving the LGBTQIA+ community. You might also see what relevant issues they help manage, like anxiety.

Ask about the type of therapy they practice

Many therapists are willing to have a short phone conversation or consultation to answer questions you may have before scheduling your first official appointment. You can use this time to ask if they have a specific approach. Most therapists practice a range of therapies. For example, these therapies may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you how to understand your thoughts and behavior.

If you’re transgender or gender nonconforming, look for someone who also specializes in gender-affirming therapy (or affirmative therapy). This type of therapy is especially helpful for those working through issues of depression, shame or sexuality.2

See if the therapist is in your health plan’s network

Many therapists list the insurance plans they accept on their websites. If not, feel free to ask about payment information or get more details during the phone conversation. Some therapists may offer a payment plan or an affordable sliding scale fee structure if they’re out of network.

It may take time to find the right fit

It may take several calls before you find the right therapist. Keep moving on to the next therapist on your list until you find one with the right experience to meet your needs.

When you find the right therapist for you, decide what you feel comfortable talking about. You don’t have to go into painful memories or experiences right away. It may take a few sessions before you feel ready to open up. It’s all right to go at your own pace — as long as you get the help you may need.

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