Looking for specialised LGBTIQ+ counselling or other inclusive mental health services? Here’s a helpful guide on how and where to start your search.
The LGBTIQ+ community is full of strength, resilience and diversity. While there are many differences and complexities within the community, as the 2022 Mardi Gras theme states, when we are United, We Shine.
Supporting the LGBTIQ+ community and their partners, families and friends through the issues they face is a big part of Relationship Australia’s mission. We’re committed to providing a safe, non-judgmental and accepting environment for our LGBTIQ+ clients.
Up to 11 Australians out of 100 may have a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. If you are 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 LGBTIQ-friendly support services.
What issues do LGBTIQ+ people face?
LGBTIQ+ 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 at large.
Issues faced can include bullying, discrimination, a feeling of isolation, fear of reactions, or the pressure of ‘coming out’. Relationship and family challenges (including domestic violence) can arise in the LGBTIQ+ community and may need professional support to manage.
Research shows that LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ-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 things can be very empowering.
Counselling can also help with concerns more specific to the LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ people in regional and rural areas have had challenges in accessing services due to their location, but thankfully online counselling options have become more common in the past few years.
If you do need specific LGBTIQ+ counselling, this is available too. Services such as QLife can help connect you with relevant services.
How to know if a counselling service is LGBTIQ-inclusive
Look for visible inclusivity
While researching counselling services, look for visibility of LGBTIQ-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 LGBTIQ-friendly, and how much experience they have with LGBTIQ+ 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 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 LGBTIQ+ community
Finally, most organisations will state on their website or social media channels whether they’re members of certain LGBTIQ+ 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 LGBTIQ+ communities. Part of this strategy is ensuring we provide appropriate services to the LGBTIQ+ community, and that we’re continually working to be as inclusive as possible.
If you identify as LGBTIQ+ and are currently experiencing any challenges, know that support is out here. Seeking counselling with an LGBTIQ-friendly professional takes courage, and will help you develop your own coping and healing strategies and support network.
If you feel that you’re affected by LGBTIQ+ issues and are seeking support, or know someone that could benefit from our services, contact us to find out more.