People are often hesitant to see a counselor, or therapist, particularly if this is the first time to reach out. Below are some common questions and answers about counseling.

Definition: Share thoughts, feelings, questions, and concerns about being the parent of an LGBTQ child either anonymously (e.g., online) or with a therapist who is bound by confidentiality.

Why: It can be helpful to discuss experiences with others to who may offer support, information, and insight.

Timing: Any time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Counseling/Therapy

Why therapy?

Therapy can help when you’ve tried everything and still notice that stress, change, difficulties, or feelings…

…are unmanageable
…are not getting better with time
…are getting in the way of your roles and duties in life (e.g., at work, as a parent, or with everyday activities)

In other words, therapy is a way to find relief when things are beyond your ability to cope, not resolving despite time and effort, and creating impairment in your life.

Also, therapy is appropriate in times of growth, exploration, confusion, and adjustment to new ideas and identities, even when things are good!

Parents of kids who have come out as LGBTQ may find that they move through each of these experiences and need a place to bring all the pieces together.

How can it help?

Therapy can be many things, and is tailored to what you want. It can be a place to get unstuck, find new understanding of yourself and others, process painful memories or feelings, learn new skills and tools, and get inspired to make exciting changes in yourself or your relationships. Specifically for parents of kids who identify as LGBTQ, therapy is a private place to air reactions of fear, doubt, or confusion and ask questions.

Isn’t it just talking with someone?

Even the good listeners in your life are not able to listen with non-judgment, focusing only on your best interests. Most friends and family members struggle to hear difficult feelings such as anger, sadness, or shame without trying to solve problems or minimize feelings. Therapists join with your struggle and help in a way that is effective, respectful, and confidential.

What’s the difference between counseling and therapy?

These words are essentially interchangeable.

How do I find a therapist?

  1. Get several names of local therapists to research. Some ways to do this:
    • Ask your doctor for recommendations.
    • If you have a health insurance plan, call the customer service number on your card and ask for help finding a list of “in-network mental health providers.”
    • Search the Psychology Today Therapist Finder for your zip code, your concern, or your insurance plan. (Not all therapists choose to be listed here, but many do.) 
    • Use online resources such as betterhelp.com or where you can set criteria and preview therapists. 
    • Since the events around COVID, even local therapists may offer online sessions  
  2. Find out more about the therapists. Some questions to ask or research:
    • Are they accepting new clients?
    • Are they inclusive and experienced with LGBTQ clients and concerns?
    • What are the fees? Do they accept insurance?
    • Do they provide individual therapy? Couples? Family? Child therapy?
    • What are first steps to schedule an appointment?

(Note: Letters such as PhD, LPC, LMFT, and LCSW represent the type of training and licensure the therapist obtained, but these letters will not determine who feels like a good match or who will work most effectively with you.)

Are there 2-3 questions I could ask to make sure they are inclusive and competent to work with concerns related to  my LGBTQ child and our family?

Your goal is to find a counselor who is knowledgeable and affirming, which is very different from friendly and accepting. You could ask if a therapist specializes or has experience working with LGBTQ concerns. Be wary of any therapist who claims to “fix” or “cure” being gay or transgender, as this will not be a good fit. Other good indicators are whether paperwork or other written material on their website reflect sexual and gender diversity/ For example, the website mentions “transgender “or “LGBTQ” in a description of services on their website, has inclusive choices for gender on intake paperwork, provides links to inclusive resources, etc. 

Why would I go just for me?

You cannot change others’ reactions, choices, or experiences, but you can work to understand and even change your own. You are worthy of good self-care, and therapy is part of that. If it is difficult to justify something only for yourself, remind yourself that as you benefit, most likely your loved ones will benefit indirectly as well. Although self-care is reason enough, improving mental wellness in order to improve parenting may motivate some parents to seek therapy. 

Should I go even if my spouse won’t?

Therapy is a personal and individual decision. You can benefit even if your partner does not attend.

Should I consider counseling for my child?

Yes. If you think that your child is struggling (See Question 1), offering or encouraging individual therapy could be a good idea. Family therapy can also be a way to strengthen relationships and communication with your child. Offer, invite, and encourage therapy if you feel it is the right step; however, forcing therapy on an adolescent who is not willing or ready can cause strain and stress.

How do I find the right therapist and make sure they’ll work well with my child?

The process is the same as described in Question 5, with one addition: listen to your child regarding whether they feel comfortable with the therapist. Some kids need a few sessions to feel comfortable and establish rapport with the therapist. Other kids and teens begin to balk at therapy after several sessions, when topics may get more difficult or personal. These issues are normal and something to bring up with the therapist, so they can monitor rapport and engagement. However, regardless of whether the child enjoys the process of therapy, a relationship with the therapist in which they feel respected, understood, and heard by the therapist is of the utmost importance. Consider giving your child the ability to look at a few websites and decide who they will see. This reinforces their sense of independence and choice. 

Should we try family therapy?

Yes, if you notice that the way your family handles problems, conflicts, and changes is not working well. A family therapist does not focus on the problems of one person, but rather focuses on the way family members interact as a group.

When would I use group therapy or individual therapy?

Both can provide a sense of relief that you are not alone. Group therapy can be a powerful way to understand yourself through relationships with and the support of others. It has many of the same benefits as individual therapy, and is often less expensive. In some cases, individual therapy may be needed before group therapy if working toward feeling stable or functioning in daily life activities are primary goals.

We don’t have insurance coverage. Where can we get help?

Community mental health agencies often have a “sliding scale” fee structure that allows for paying what is affordable to you, based on your income. Support groups can also be a lower cost option.

How long does counseling go on?

This depends on you, the therapist, and the goals you set together. Terminating therapy is best approached as a joint decision between client and therapist, but clients can decide to discontinue therapy at any time. However, a question to ask a therapist in the first session or two is how long they anticipate the work will last. Some therapists work within a short-term therapy model, others allow for ongoing, start-and-stop work, and others form treatment plans that estimate the number of sessions needed.

How much will it cost?

If you are not using health insurance, “private pay” rates for 50-60 minute sessions can range widely, anywhere from $80 to $175 or higher, in some cases. Group therapy sessions usually range from $20 to $50 per meeting.

Can I choose what I ask for help on?

Yes! You are in charge of what concerns and goals you bring to therapy. A therapist may recommend exploring other things, but your primary concerns should drive therapy goals.

I live in a small town. Is there any way I can get help online or remotely?

Telehealth or telemedicine, e-therapy, or online therapy as it is sometimes called, has become increasingly common. Including search terms such as “online therapy” or “teletherapy” will reveal a list of therapy providers that provide this service.

I’m a Christian. Can I find a Christian counselor?

Yes. Some counselors indicate online or in other materials that they focus in that area. This designation usually means the counselor is a Christian — not that they are qualified to give theological answers.

It’s important to make sure they are able to help you support your LGBTQ child and are not condemning. A direct question before making an appointment might be “Are they  affirming/accepting/supportive of LGBTQ individuals?”

If I’m a Christian can I see a non-Christian counselor?

Of course. Counselors help clients address emotional or mental needs of many types: concerns, decisions, emotional struggles, relationship problems, etc. For parents of an LGBTQ child, there are many concerns separate from religious questions where a counselor can assist. If your faith is not accepting of LGBTQ individuals, a non-religious counselor may be the best option and provide additional insights. They may also be more able to address concerns around your child’s safety, friends, activities, and social interests.

When would I see a pastor versus a counselor?

This is partly a personal preference. If you are close to a pastor and trust them to be supportive of your LGBTQ child, they may be a good resource. (Pastors who are not supportive would hopefully point you to other alternatives.) Often people prefer to see a counselor rather than a pastor for more privacy. It can be hard to interact with a pastor socially or in services when you are in active counseling with them. Sometimes people find that seeing both is a better answer than either/or. That allows them to work on theology and faith issues with the pastor and personal struggles with the counselor.

If I can’t find or afford a therapist, what can I do? (Journaling? Reading? etc?)

Many therapists offer sliding scale rates, and some agencies offer therapy for free or at a reduced cost. Additionally, local or online support groups can be a place to interact with others who have similar experiences. Journaling and reading self-help books or online resources can be helpful in the meantime. You can find additional books online in our Resources list at www.strongfamilyalliance.org .