Everything to know about LGBTQ+ Counseling
Denver diversity is flourishing, and our community is becoming more accepting, supportive and celebratory of every gender identity and sexual orientation our members embody. But there is still stigma, stereotypes and difficult challenges that members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis. These experiences result in a higher prevalence of mental illness and emotional struggle compared to non-LGBTQ+ people. And, these experiences may cause you to wonder if a therapist could possibly understand your perspective.
At Caring Heart Counseling, we offer sensitive, compassionate and educated LGBTQ+ counseling for everyone. LGBTQ+ therapy addresses all of the same problems that individual counseling does, but it provides an added level of insight and understanding to create a safe space for anyone to express themselves and their unique experiences.
In this guide, we’ll help you learn everything you need to know about LGBTQ+ counseling. We’ll cover how it works, what to expect and topics we can help you address in your life. At Caring Heart Counseling, you always have an ally who wants to listen, affirm and uplift you no matter who you are or where you are on your journey.
LGBTQ+ Counseling Helps People at Every Stage of Self-Discovery
One of the biggest struggles people face when exploring their gender and sexuality is worrying whether or not they’re “enough” for a particular label. Do you have to date men and women on rotation to be a “real” bisexual? What does it mean to be non-binary, and how do you know when it’s the right time to transition to a different pronoun? Does being gay mean you can’t have feelings for someone who is transgender? All of these questions and more can be addressed through counseling. We are not here to tell you what’s right or wrong, but to help you discover yourself more and build the confidence you need to lead life as the most authentic version of yourself.
Going to counseling can be so liberating as an LGBTQ+ person because you finally have a place to express all of your thoughts and feelings in a judgement-free zone. Your therapist isn’t going to force you into any label. Instead, we’re focused on helping you accept who you are in the present moment and find love for that individual. It’s the underlying being who matters. Whether you believe in souls or spirits or just consciousness, therapy helps you connect with the “you” underneath it all and become more confident in that being as you continue to explore your identity.
This can be an especially cathartic experience for people who are contemplating coming out later in life or those wrestling with trauma, needing to heal from the past before they can truly move forward into a brighter future.
It Isn’t Just for Adults
Adolescence is when most people in the LGBTQ+ community begin to confront feelings about their gender identity and sexuality. This is a natural time to begin considering where you fit in the world, who you want to become, and how you want to connect with others. For parents, having a teen come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender or non-binary can be a confusing time. You may lack the words to give them the love and support you want to express; you might struggle to help them overcome their problems and insecurities.
By working with an LGBTQ-informed therapist, parents and teenagers alike can learn to navigate identity and sexuality. If you’re going to support your teen as they transition, then family counseling can also help everyone be as understanding and supportive as possible.
Many teens who identify as LBGTQ+ also struggle with mental illness, namely depression and anxiety. Therapy can help them learn to manage their symptoms and resolve them as they become more secure about themselves and who they are.
It Offers Unique Treatment for LGBTQ+ Substance Abuse
There is a higher prevalence of substance abuse in the LGBTQ+ community than any other group worldwide. Finding ways to cope with stigma, abuse and discrimination can come in many forms, and unfortunately, many of them tend to be self-destructive and harmful. In counseling, we also handle serious topics like substance abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Beyond treating just the symptoms, we look at the underlying experiences that have influenced your mental health so far. Understanding how substance abuse affects the LGBTQ+ community and the role it plays in your life so far. In addition to substance abuse counseling and talk therapy, your therapist can also help you explore various treatment options and play an active role in your recovery.
Therapy Can Be a Safe Space for Unsupported Teens
Self-help resources allow teens to tackle many of the issues they face on their own, but they still need a supportive environment to thrive. Unfortunately, not everyone is accepting of LGBTQ+ identities. While this is definitely changing, many traditional communities and even individual families are still wrought with homophobia and transphobia. This can be devastating as someone who feels completely rejected by their parents, siblings or close relatives.
Rather than simply having to “suck it up” and deal with all the pain and heartache involved with being discriminated against, therapy can help LGBTQ teens find resources they need while also providing identity affirmation. When you’re a young person who has taken the courage to confide in your loved ones, it is heartbreaking to have your identity questioned, invalidated or flat-out rejected. Therapy can be a place to heal from that, find acceptance and shift your focus toward a brighter future filled with people who will love you for exactly who you are.
Parents Can Educate Themselves Without Fear
When your child comes out as trans or non-binary, it’s common to panic and feel at a loss for words. You may fear that asking them questions will make them feel unsupported or even offended. It’s also natural to wrestle with a sense of grief and loss over the future you envisioned for your child as you knew them. Sharing these thoughts can cause guilt, so you may be tempted to repress them. But you cannot fully support your transgender or non-binary child without first fully coming to terms with who they are.
LGBTQ+ counseling allows you to express everything you’re feeling in an open space free of judgement. As therapists, we help both individuals and their loved ones confront some of the most difficult thoughts and feelings they carry around with them on a daily basis. At the core of Caring Heart Counseling’s LGBTQ+ counseling, we have a deep sense of love and acceptance for everyone. We know that it isn’t always easy to understand or even accept someone’s identity. Most of the time, you just need space to process and skills to communicate better.
In addition to taking care of your own mental health, our therapy for parents of LGBTQ+ children provides guidance and support for major topics such as healthcare, gender reassignment and coming out to family.
Counseling Can Make You a Better Ally
If you want to support your LGBTQ friends, there are many ways you can do so, but there are also some pitfalls to avoid. Sometimes, people with the best intentions still act in a way that is considered insensitive or misplaced to their loved ones. This doesn’t have anything to do with your care or compassion; the LGBTQ experience is unique, dynamic and extremely individual. Although your friends may have commonalities with people in the community, they are still their own beings whose gender identity and sexual orientation have developed on their own.
To be the best ally possible, speaking with an educated counselor can help. You can ask questions openly without worrying about offending your friends. You can also gain valuable insight into the common mental health struggles that affect people in the LGBTQ community, which might affect your friends but are not often shared. A therapist can offer valuable tips on how to support someone with a mental illness and even offer important tips and warning signs to watch out for if you’re ever worried about someone.
It Can Help You Break Free From Perfectionism
Perfectionism in the LGBTQ+ community is rampant, and it can lead to serious problems with chronic stress, depression and anxiety. Underlying perfectionism is a fear of not being good enough or feeling like you constantly have to prove your worth to others. It’s never enough to just be “good enough; you always have to be the best. Standards that constantly reach infinitely higher leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated and unhappy. The perfectionist mindset is destructive and, ultimately, unfair to you.
As a human being, you’re allowed to make mistakes, change your opinions and grow. You’re allowed to be less than perfect. In therapy, we can address reasons why you may be a perfectionist and how perfectionism is affecting your life. Building greater self-love, acceptance and forgiveness can ultimately help you be kinder to yourself and everyone around you.
You Can Heal From Depression
People in the LGBTQ+ community are 4.5 times more likely to suffer from depression. Factors such as lack of support, discrimination, trauma and general minority stress all contribute to depression. What starts off as fear can morph into a feeling of hopelessness that clouds everything in your life.
Depression is a unique experience to everyone, and good therapy will always place your experience as an individual over your place in any community. But good therapy also recognizes that the experiences of being LGBTQ+ are unique in and of themselves, and you deserve a counselor who understands these nuances.
Together, you and a licensed counselor can talk through your feelings, explore your thoughts and find real ways to get relief from depression. It’s about so much more than simply taking medication or getting things off your chest. You need a supportive environment that helps you build upon your strengths and find sources of hope and purpose in the world.
Gender and Sexuality Anxiety Can Be Treated
LGBTQ+ people experience some form of anxiety or depression at a rate of 1.5 to 2.5 more often than the heterosexual, cis-gender population. A lack of understanding from others can often cause people to struggle in isolation because they can’t tolerate constantly having to explain themselves or validate their experiences to other people. LGBTQ+ counseling alleviates that burden and gives you freedom to express everything without having to worry about being judged or invalidated.
When you’re a child, you took in many messages that subconsciously told you the “right” way to be a man or woman. You were likely taught that there are only two genders, and the gender you have coincides with your biological sex. For decades, “gay” was used as an insult, and people’s sexuality were often the brunt of cheap drama and comedy on television. To a developing child, this can lead to harmful mental frameworks that ultimately affect how you see yourself when you grow up.
Identifying as LGBTQ+ is different to everyone, but not knowing where you exactly fit in can lead to anxiety and depression. Mental and body dysphoria create lasting psychological impacts that can make even simple acts like getting dressed feel hard and burdensome. Fear of discrimination, judgement and a general lack of support can all cause someone to struggle with their mental health. Informed counseling for LGBTQ+ people gives you the right level of care you need to start healing. Your identity itself is never the problem; it’s the perspective with which you see it. At Caring Heart Counseling, we want every person to build an image of themselves that’s rooted in acceptance and love, not perfection and expectation.
You Can Gain a Deeper Appreciation for Who You Are
The LGBTQ+ community is extremely diverse and incredibly beautiful. You are never alone. Your feelings, experiences and difficulties are all valid and, more often than not, shared by others leading similar lives. If you struggle to accept your gender, sexuality or identity, counseling can help you discover the beauty in being you. There are so many strengths in the LGBTQ community, and we are happy to help you discover them.
In addition to recognizing community-based strengths, counseling also helps you learn to recognize and appreciate your own. You bring so much to the table, and therapy is a valuable tool that can help you realize just how much you have to offer.
Denver LGBTQ Counseling for Everyone
LGBTQ+ counseling at Caring Heart is as individual as each client. We are always evolving and educating ourselves to provide the greatest level of care and understanding to everyone we work with. If you’d like to learn more or schedule a face-to-face or virtual therapy session with one of our counselors, please contact us today.
5 Strengths Unique to the LGBTQ Community
The LGBTQ community is one of, if not the most, diverse groups in the world. Being a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or non-gender-conforming individual in today’s society can be overwhelming in many regards; although the world has, for the most part, become much more accepting and even impassioned about advocating for equality, there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done. Beyond the political and social aspects, many teens in the LGBTQ+ network feel a pressure to quickly identify and conform to their own group’s standards and ideals.
Stigma and stereotypes persist, even among allies. Rather than embracing someone for who they are as a unique person, identity erasure may occur as a person becomes a token “gay friend” or other concept to people around them. Mental illness is still higher in the LGBTQ community than any other group, and with so many obstacles to face, Caring Heart Counseling believes it’s also important to take time to celebrate the strengths of the community.
It’s impossible not to be reminded of courage when we reflect on the efforts of protesters, advocates and and every day individuals who live their lives directly facing discrimination, ignorance and inequality. It takes immense courage to speak up and live authentically as an LGBTQ+ person. Although you may still be closeted, the fact that you carry your identity with you each day still shows incredible strength.
Coming out is not something that someone does with no forethought. It often takes years of personal exploration to fully understand, acknowledge and embrace your identity. The insight you have into your own thoughts, emotions and identity are a valuable asset that make you more empathetic toward others.
When you are always told that the “norm” is to be heterosexual and cis-gender, it can be difficult to live outside of the bubble. But people in the LGBTQ community are champions for authenticity; their bravery is embodied in their natural expression of who they are. You don’t have to be “out and proud” to still be living authentically, either. Everyone represents and expresses their individuality differently, and it’s something that the LGBTQ community embraces.
Despite misconceptions, stereotypes, discrimination, hate crimes and so much more, the community is still thriving in the face of it all. People continually share their own stories and triumphs, spreading hope to anyone who feels trapped by their current situation.
The community strives to accept anyone and everyone who identifies outside societal gender and sexuality norms. While there is still some internal division and debates, the LGBTQ community at large is incredibly diverse, inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Being able to say that you are a part of a community that takes others in where the world has failed is no small accomplishment, and it is a source of pride and strength that many hold dear.
Finding Your Strength
If you are ever struggling in your own identity or with mental health in general, please contact our Colorado therapists. We offer specialized, compassionate, person-centered therapy for people in the greater Denver LGBTQ+ community. We also provide a wide range of other services that you can review here. Please reach out to us today with any questions or to schedule a session.