How to Find a Gay Counsellor in 2021

by | Gay Mental Health

When I’m having a consultation call with potential clients, it’s common for someone to say “I’m not really sure what to ask actually.” And this makes complete sense. It can take a lot of courage just to start interviewing prospective counsellors, let alone know how to evaluate if a counsellor will be a good fit for you.

For LGBTQ2S+ folks, the process of choosing a counsellor can feel even more daunting. Some of the questions you might be asking are:

• Does my counsellor need to be gay?

• How do I even know if a counsellor is a good fit?

• And how do I know if a counsellor isn’t right for me?

In this guide, I’ll dive deeper into these questions, as well as some other important considerations for finding a gay counsellor.

Does my counsellor need to be gay?

If you’re reading this guide, chances are that it’s because something about the idea of seeing a gay counsellor feels more comfortable for you. This is great awareness to pay attention to.

It’s also okay for LGBTQ2S+ folks to see a counsellor who isn’t LGBTQ2S+ themselves. At the end of the day, it’s about being comfortable with a specific counsellor. And this makes sense given that the counselling relationship is one of the biggest factors in predicting a good counselling outcome.

You might even seek out a gay counsellor to talk about topics that aren’t gay specific. In fact, this is quite common amongst the clients I work with. Sometimes working with a gay counsellor simply feels more comfortable for the issues you’d like to work on in counselling.

What counsellor traits will help you feel comfortable?

While you don’t need to share all the same traits with your counsellor to have a beneficial counselling experience, it can be helpful to think about what other traits a counsellor might need to have for you to be comfortable. Would a BIPOC counsellor or a counsellor of a specific cultural or spiritual background help you to feel most comfortable? These are the sort of questions which can help you find a fit that feels comfortable.

Gay-friendly is just a start

There’s a big difference between a counsellor being “gay-friendly,” and one who is knowledgable about the challenges which can be unique to LGBTQ2S+ people. A lot of well-meaning counsellors will say they’re “gay-friendly” or that they work with people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see more counsellors working toward being inclusive. However, it can be misleading if you’re looking for a counsellor who you can feel comfortable talking about LGBTQ2S+ specific issues with, and who is trained in the challenges that can be specific to LGBTQ2S+ folks.

When someone has grown up gay in a heterosexist world, it’s important for their worth as an LGBTQ2S+ person to be affirmed. There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ2S+! This is why it’s also important to find out if a counsellor works from a gay-affirming / LGBTQ2S-affirming counselling perspective. 

Do you need a gay counsellor with other specialties?

While you may be looking for a gay counsellor as your main criteria, it’s also worth considering if you need a counsellor who has additional areas of expertise. For example, I specialize in working with gay men (and LGBTQ2S+ folks in general), but I also specialize in issues related to emotional understanding, trauma, and self-worth. Whereas other gay counsellors may specialize based on specific issues or types of treatment. Have a look around a counsellor’s website or directory listing to get an idea of the other areas they specialize in, and if this matches the types of issues you’d like to address in counselling.

Online counselling may be a good option

Depending on where you live, there may not be any gay counsellors who are close enough for in-person counselling. Luckily, online counselling solves this issue and makes it easier for LGBTQ2S+ folks to connect with a gay counsellor they can be comfortable with. Even better, online counselling is convenient, and research has shown that online counselling is just as effective as in-person counselling.

Find out what you can afford and if you have insurance coverage

Although not only related to gay counsellors, sometimes the financial aspect of counselling can be overlooked when you’re just desperate to find help.

Yet, counselling at any price is an investment of your time, energy, and money. It’s important to figure out a budget ahead of time so that you can get the most out of your counselling by minimizing financial stress.

If you know you can afford a certain number of sessions ahead of time, it can be helpful to communicate this with a potential counsellor so that you can work with them to find the best approach for however many sessions are within your budget. 

If you have health benefits, it’s helpful to contact your insurance provider before starting counselling with a specific counsellor to see if and what would be covered by your insurance. This can save the shock of being left with a bill you didn’t expect if your insurance coverage only covers a certain percentage of a session, or services provided by specific mental health professionals. Check out the insurance section on my FAQ page for a list of questions you can ask your insurance provider.

Watch out for red flags

If a counsellor suggests that there are ways to change your sexual orientation or gender identity, this is an attempt at a pseudoscientific practice called conversion therapy or reparative therapy. And it’s a major red flag. If this happens during a consultation or counselling session, you have the right to terminate the counselling.

There is no evidence to support conversion therapy as a valid psychological intervention. Rather, growing evidence has highlighted the harms that conversion therapy can have on LGBTQ2S+ folks.

Legislation around conversion therapy is different depending on where you are in the world, and even within Canada. At the time of this writing, some provinces and cities have banned the practice of conversion therapy, and there is currently legislation which has been introduced to criminalize the practice of conversation therapy across Canada.

Talk with a potential counsellor before booking your first counselling session

Most counsellors will offer a free consultation call before you decide to work with them. Take advantage of this opportunity to see if a potential counsellor feels like a good fit for what you’d like to work on. Listen to your gut during the consultation.

Do you feel comfortable and understood?

Can you imagine talking about all the details of your current challenges with a prospective counsellor?

If the answer is “yes,” this is a good sign that you’d likely work well together.

While some nervousness and anxiety talking to a potential counsellor is normal, pay attention to some of the more difficult emotions as well. Do you feel annoyed, judged or disrespected by a counsellor when first talking to them? These may be signs that a particular counsellor is not a good fit for you.

Lastly, think about any questions you’d like answered during a consultation and write these down before the call. It can be uncomfortable to ask, but it will make counselling easier later on if you can get important questions answered from the start.

One final and important tip…

One last thing to know is that it’s okay to speak with multiple counsellors before deciding which counsellor to start counselling with. Speaking with a few counsellors can make a good fit with a specific counsellor all the more apparent and give you more confidence in your decision.

Hopefully these tips will help you find a gay counsellor who’s a good fit for the challenges you’re currently facing.

If you’d like to apply these tips to me, click the button below to get started. I’d be glad to chat with you and see if I can help. 🙂

Blog Bio Jordan Gruenhage Canada Gay Counsellor Therapist

Jordan Gruenhage

MA, CCC, RCC

As a counsellor at The Centre for Gay Counselling, Jordan excels at helping fellow gay men understand their emotions better, heal from past trauma, and grow their sense of self-worth so that they can enjoy living fully as themselves. He believes that gay men have inherent worth, and that they deserve to live fulfilling lives. Interested in working with Jordan? Click the button below to get started.