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  • Staff Writer

Understanding LGBTQ-Affirming Therapy and Its Benefits

Adolescents from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community are faced with many stressors that other teens do not experience in the same way. Additionally, LGBTQ students often face similar challenges with transitioning into adulthood. Helping them to embrace their identity can support their overall mental health. LGBTQ-affirming therapy is one method that will help LGBTQ students understand and learn to accept their identity. However, it is ideally part of a larger treatment plan that addresses addiction and mental health as a whole as they transition into adulthood.

What Is LGBTQ-Affirming Therapy?

LGBTQ individuals are commonly discriminated against or stigmatized at home, in school, or in the workplace. This can make it incredibly challenging for adolescents to feel confident and good about who they are. One option is LGBTQ-affirming therapy, which helps to address this and other mental health issues.

LGBTQ-affirming therapy differs from therapy that is open to LGBTQ clients. It goes beyond this basic acceptance to help address the negative impacts of social stigmatization on individuals. In affirming therapy, LGBTQ clients learn to feel validated and the therapist will help them advocate for their needs. While affirming therapy will look different for each individual, it commonly includes the following:

  • Self-reflection

  • Learning about stigmas and prejudices

  • Discussing the individual impact of stigmas

  • Exploring internal and external biases and their impact

  • Self-discovery

  • Talking through coming out or how the process was

By learning about both stigmas and themselves, clients who have been through LGBTQ-affirming therapy feel more aware of issues and how they have been affected. Additionally, it helps individuals to create a more positive view of themselves.

Common LGBTQ Mental Health Concerns

Every individual will have unique experiences with how others treat them. However, LGBTQ individuals commonly experience more prejudice, bullying, stigmatization, and exclusion. These behaviors, while common, greatly impact an individual's mental health. According to researchers, LGBTQ individuals have an increased risk of the following mental health issues:

  • Emotional distress

  • Trauma due to victimization

  • Social dysfunction

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Substance abuse

  • Suicide

  • Anger

  • Self-injury

How LGBTQ-Affirming Therapy Affects Mental Health

The goal of LGBTQ-affirming therapy is to help individuals work through these mental health concerns. By addressing the full spectrum of effects, individuals can not only improve mental health but also build a more positive image of themselves. For adolescents, this is particularly important as they are in a time of transition. By addressing the unique issues faced by LGBTQ adolescents, they are more likely to be able to manage stress, care for their needs, and learn to live as independent adults.

Addressing Unique Mental Health Needs

Mental health includes our mental and emotional state. Adolescents commonly experience challenges with mental health. These difficulties can make it hard for them to transition into adulthood. LGBTQ adolescents often have the additional challenges of stigmatization, discrimination, and bullying.

While many adolescents do well with therapy, LGBTQ adolescents need specific care to address their unique needs. The needs of each LGBTQ adolescent will vary. However, LGBTQ-affirming therapy will help to work through how the discrimination they have faced has impacted them. It will help them to explore and address the deep-seated beliefs that may be impacting how they feel about themselves. While therapy is helpful, affirming therapy is ideal for addressing the specific needs of LGBTQ adolescents.

Improved Self-Esteem and Identity

The way adolescents are treated and how they view others similar to themselves as being treated has an impact on their self-esteem and identity. Due to bullying and discrimination, many LGBTQ adolescents have a negative image of themselves. There are many concerns about their lack of self-esteem and confidence in their identity. Researchers have found that individuals who view themselves as negative are at an increased risk of depression.

LGBTQ-affirming therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can help adolescents understand these deep feelings. By learning about the nature of discrimination, adolescents get a clearer understanding that it is not their fault. Additionally, affirming therapy helps them to see themselves in a more positive light. Adolescents and adults cannot change their sexual orientation. Therefore, the answer to finding peace is to understand the internal dialogue and external problems that are creating the issue.

LGBTQ-Affirming Therapy: Part of the Whole Picture

Adolescents are in a challenging part of their lives. Becoming an adult and moving towards college is a lot of change. However, LGBTQ adolescents have even more to manage. As a result of discrimination, many LGBTQ adolescents struggle with mental health and substance abuse. These make transitioning into adulthood even harder.

Ideally, LGBTQ-affirming therapy will be part of a bigger plan. This means that the whole picture is to help LGBTQ adolescents to transition into adulthood, learn necessary skills, and thrive as an adult. While this takes more than one type of therapy, they are important. By helping LGBTQ adolescents improve mental health, self-esteem, and identity, affirming therapy is an instrumental piece of the whole picture.

LGBTQ-affirming therapy is a type of therapy that is directed at LGBTQ individuals to address their unique issues. At Northwest College Support, we understand that LGBTQ adolescents often face unique challenges. This can make the transition into adulthood even harder. As part of our programs, we offer LGBTQ-affirming therapy in both individual and group settings. These sessions are unique depending on the specific needs of the student. Our goal is to help students transition into adulthood and thrive. While LGBTQ-affirming therapy will not change the world, it will help students to feel more positive about themselves and manage their mental health as adolescents and adults. To learn more or speak with a staff member today, call us at (877) 485-2776.

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