The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) community is larger than many think, with nearly nearly one in twenty Americans identifying as either gay or lesbian. While this number may appear to be higher than it was decades ago, it can be rather difficult to get an accurate LGBTQ+ statistic due to the fact that many individuals remain closeted and have not yet disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to the public or even those around them. For this reason, it’s less important to focus on the size of this community, than placing priority on understanding the LGBTQ+ struggle and experience.
That experience isn’t always an easy one. Exploring one’s own sexual orientation and gender identity is a complex and often serious, gut-wrenching process. Coming out as LGBTQ+ can require enormous bravery. LGBTQ+ Americans still live in a society where many of their rights are under siege, and in which many people don’t respect their basic humanity.
Dealing with all of this strain without professional help is possible for many members of the LGBTQ+ community — but it’s never preferable. When an individual elects to manage alone, they often fail to treat their mental health with the same respect that is often given to physical wellbeing. If we felt physically ill or injured, we would go to the doctor — and more Americans, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, should be responding in the same way to their mental health experiences and symptoms.
LGBTQ+ therapy: a great option for LGBTQ+ individuals
Talk therapy is a powerful tool that can be used to explore personal feelings, emotions, and mental health issues. Through talk therapy, individuals can work with a therapist (who may also be a psychologist or even a psychiatrist) to develop coping strategies that help them better handle the anxieties and stresses that they face from both outside and within.
The struggles of the LGBTQ+ community have unique effects on mental health, which is why those struggling with gender or identity issues might prefer to see a gay therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ therapy. These therapists know the specific issues and struggles that many LGBTQ+ individuals face: the stigmas and conditions that are more common within the community and those that exist outside of it, as well.
A good therapist can help an LGBTQ+ individual at every stage of their life’s journey. Therapy can be beneficial to those questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity — both those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and those who discover that they are not. For LGBTQ+ individuals, therapy continues to help even after coming out. Many find therapy valuable in teaching coping strategies that help decrease the stress of daily life, as well as in helping to overcome any anxiety-inducing or even frightening experiences they might face as a result of their identity.
Therapy is for everyone
Of course, therapy doesn’t exist just to help individuals with problems related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Mental health issues are incredibly common in our country, and the LGBTQ+ community is no exception.
LGBTQ+ individuals in therapy can talk and work through their issues, both those which are closely tied to their sexual orientation and gender identities and those which may be (or appear to be) unrelated. Anxiety and depression can happen to anyone, regardless of identity or orientation. Anyone can have difficult relationships. Anyone can have trouble paying attention or trouble sleeping, and anyone can feel frustrated or upset.
Therapy has incredible benefits. It can improve relationships and improve mood. It can transform people into better emotional problem-solvers, better friends, and better allies. It even offers a safe outlet to release withheld frustrations and fears.
All of us deserve therapy, and all of us can be helped by it. More people — including those in the LGBTQ+ community — should be proactive about their mental health and should seek out therapy and other mental health treatments and solutions.