What does LGBTQ Affirmative mean?

What can I expect from an LGBTQ Affirmative Therapist?

What does LGBTQ mean?


LGBTQ means: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. The word queer, is often used as an umbrella term for individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender. 


What does LGBTQ affirmative mean?


This is a really great question and one that is asked fairly frequently. 


An LGBTQ affirmative approach in therapy does what it says on the can, affirms a client's sexual orientation and gender identity - by offering a positive, informed approach. Genuineness and authenticity are at the heart of this approach, and a therapist must have done a deeper dive into their own prejudices and biases first. An LGBTQ affirmative therapist will understand the consequences of navigating a world where being heterosexual and cisgender is generally the expectation, and the threat of homophobia and transphobia is ever-present. The therapist will advocate for the client and the LGBTQ community, understand and address the impact of minority stress and be willing to challenge the clients' internalised homophobia or transphobia should that arise, as well as challenge homophobia and transphobia in society. The therapist's genuineness, knowledge base, and positive stance facilitate an environment of trust, inclusion, acceptance, and safety which are the necessary ingredients for any therapeutic relationship.


What is minority stress?


Minority stress, for the LGBTQ community, refers to the high-stress levels experienced by being/or feeling excluded, stigmatised, treated less favourably than other members of society, and not being afforded the same rights. Stress is cumulative experiencing high-stress levels on an ongoing basis can leave an individual vulnerable to mental and physical ill-health. 


LGBTQ affirmative approach, when is it useful?


An affirmative approach is helpful for all LGBTQ-identified clients across the lifespan, regardless of the reason for accessing therapy. It assures clients that the therapist will have a positive, informed stance toward sexual orientation and gender identity. 


An affirmative approach is especially vital for clients who are in the delicate process of 'coming out'  (telling people their gender identity or sexual orientation) or where there is difficulty in coming to terms with gender identity and or sexual orientation. An affirmative approach can also be helpful for the families of LGBTQ-identified individuals, especially where there is family conflict and a lack of acceptance. An affirmative therapist aims to provide a safe, positive, affirmative space for LGBTQ clients and those closely connected. 


As society evolves and becomes more inclusive, the need for LGBTQ affirmative therapists may become a thing of the past. Until then, every drop of inclusion, no matter how small, helps create the ocean of the future, and this responsibility is not only that of therapists but of us all.


First published - 16th of June 2022

Author - Nicki Wright


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