Finding a welcoming & inclusive therapy environment can be a difficult process, but for queer folks there is an added challenge. Not only do queer folks need to find a provider who can best serve and support them, they also have the added stress of finding a therapist who is familiar with queer and trans issues & educated on inclusivity.
If you’re looking to be a safe & inclusive space for your queer and trans clients, here are six tips you can use in your practice to make sure your environment is affirming:
1. Educate yourself
Do you know the terms you should be using? Do you know the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality? Is cisgender a term you’re familiar with & used to using? Do you understand the difference between sexual orientation, romantic orientation, & gender identity?
Familiarizing yourself with the language is a big part of making sure your client feels safe & comfortable talking with you.
A few resources to get you started:
2. Identify your blocks
You don’t have to be queer or trans to be a queer and trans affirming therapist. However, there are experiences you just will not understand without having lived them. Accept that there may be things your client has gone through that you haven’t had to think about in your own life.
Realize your own privilege, identify your preconceived biases, and do that work before meeting with your clients. It’s our responsibility as therapists to have done the labor necessary to make a open & safe space for our clients, without having the burden of educating falling to them.
Learn more here about our individual & group trainings, as well as our individual supervision services to help you & your practice in the process of educating yourself.
3. Find local resources
Are there queer and trans inclusive organizations in your community? Do you know about groups, clubs, events that are specifically for your local queer and trans communities? Do a little research, find out what’s going on around you. It’s always nice to have a backlog of local resources to direct your clients to, where they will feel safe and welcome.
4. Add pronouns to your website
The normalization of clarifying pronouns is helpful to transgender, genderqueer and nonbinary folks. Instead of making them other themselves by specifying which pronouns they use, make it a part of your practice. In your therapist bios, note the pronouns for each person in your practice. Ask every new client, and not just those you perceive as gender expansive, their pronouns. This is a small way to communicate to queer and trans folks searching out your services know that you’re open & educated, and ready to make their search for therapy as stress-free as you can.
5. De-gender your conversation
Making sure to be gender-neutral in your language is crucial. Whether a client has come out and said that they are queer, trans or not, keeping language open and neutral is an easy signal to them that all people are welcome and that you are a safe and knowledgeable place to come out.
When talking about relationships stick to words like “partners” rather than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and keep pronouns general–”they” is easier and much more natural sounding than “he or she” and it helps keep language inclusive for trans, genderqueer and non-binary folks. Once a client specifies pronouns, it is important to respect them and stick to those pronouns. But before this happens (if ever), sticking to gender neutral pronouns can help clients feel comfortable & welcome in your space.
6. Reflect on your practice environment as a whole
What’s your waiting room like? Are the reading materials in your office inclusive of queer and trans people? Is your website inclusive on every page, or is there a separate page just for LGBTQ+ folks? Ultimately, do you make assumptions about gender, sexuality and relationship orientations? Being intentional about the inclusivity of your environment and not just an afterthought is an important step in making sure your queer and trans clients feel welcome, rather than othered or alienated.