Looking for an LGBTQIA+ friendly and inclusive counselling or mental health service? Here’s a helpful guide on how and where to start your search.
Up to 11 Australians out of 100 may have a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity, and the LGBTQIA+ community is full of strength, resilience and diversity. If you’re currently facing any difficulties as a result of your gender, sex or sexuality, you’re not alone. There is help available, both at Relationships Australia NSW and other LGBTQIA+ friendly support services.
Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and their partners, families and friends through the issues they face is a big part of Relationship Australia NSW’s mission. We’re committed to providing a safe, non-judgmental and accepting environment for our LGBTQIA+ clients.
What are the key issues faced by LGBTQIA+ people?
LGBTQIA+ people can experience confusing or distressing thoughts and emotions if they’re still working through their identity. As well as dealing with their own experience, they may find themselves grappling with the reactions of families and friends, their workplace and society more broadly.
Bullying and discrimination are unfortunately still all too common, and can result in feelings of isolation, fear of reactions, or anxiety around ‘coming out’. Relationship and family challenges (including domestic violence) can arise in the LGBTQIA+ community and may need professional support to manage.
Research shows that LGBTQIA+ people under-utilise health services and delay seeking help due to actual or anticipated discrimination from service providers. Doing your research to make sure your counsellor is LGBTIQ-friendly can help you to feel more comfortable and confident.
How can LGBTQIA+ inclusive counselling help?
Inclusive counselling services can help with generalised issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, work stress and relationship challenges. Connecting with a trusted counsellor and working through these issues can be very empowering.
Counselling can also help with concerns more specific to the LGBTQIA+ community, such as stigma and discrimination, or working through sexuality or gender identity. Trained counsellors can help you explore and manage these challenges. They can work with you to develop coping strategies that help you manage whatever life throws at you, and to start or continue the healing process.
Some LGBTQIA+ people in regional and rural areas have had challenges in accessing services due to their location, but an increase in online counselling options have helped to make these services more accessible in the last few years.
If you do need specific LGBTQIA+ counselling, this is available too. Services such as QLife can help connect you with relevant services.
How to know if a counselling service is LGBTQIA+ inclusive
If you’re seeking help, it’s crucial to feel that the service providers you’re using not only have experience working with people who’ve had similar experiences to you, but will also take measures to keep you safe. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Look for visible inclusivity
While researching counselling services, look for visibility of LGBTQIA+ friendly services. These can include ACON ‘Welcome Here’ stickers and icons, rainbow flags, posters and photos of same-sex couples and gender diverse people. You might find this on the organisation’s website or in their offices.
Ask about counsellors’ experience
When enquiring about a service, generally you can ask the customer service team some anonymous questions about whether their counsellors are LGBTQIA+ friendly, and how much experience they have with LGBTQIA+ clients and communities. Some counsellors will specialise in these areas, while others will have less experience. Most importantly, you need to feel like you can trust your counsellor to support you through your issues.
Of course, if you’re not comfortable disclosing personal details upfront, that’s OK too. If you feel comfortable enough to commence sessions with your counsellor, you can disclose later on once you’ve developed more rapport.
Check the organisation’s commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community
Finally, most organisations will state on their website or social media channels whether they’re members of certain LGBTQIA+ advocacy organisations. This can be a good indicator that they offer inclusive services.
For example, Relationships Australia NSW has a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy which aims to fully include LGBTQIA+ communities. Part of this strategy is ensuring we provide appropriate services to the LGBTQIA+ community, and that we’re continually working to be as inclusive as possible.
If you identify as LGBTQIA+ and are currently experiencing any challenges, know that support is available. Seeking counselling with an LGBTQIA+ friendly professional takes courage and will help you develop your own coping and healing strategies and support network.