You’re worried. Your gay child seems more than moody. Or your lesbian daughter seems more withdrawn and her weight is fluctuating. Your LGBT child is dreading school– another year of bullying.
Beware of Conversion Therapy
You think he/she may need a therapist, but you’re read that some mental health professionals try to convert their LGBT patients and make them straight.
You want to help but you don’t want your kid to feel badly about himself because the expert is making him feel guilty about being “different” and is trying to make him switch his sexual orientation. This is called reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association shuns reparative therapy and in 1973 declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
So, what’s a parent to do? How do you know if the therapist is gay-friendly before you hire him? There are ways to gauge if a therapist has had adequate training in this area (most therapists don’t). So how do you find a GLBT-friendly therapist?
Places to Look
· Check with your local gay and lesbian center in your area. It may have counseling on-site and usually maintains lists of gay-friendly businesses and health care providers.
· Get recommendations from a nearby chapter of PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays).
· The psychology department of a neighboring university may have an on-site clinic with mental health professionals.
· Gay publications such as Out and lesbian magazines such as Curves may have ads for therapists.
· Ask your family doctor (if she or he is gay-friendly) for a referral.
· The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists has an online referral system of participating members. See http://www.aglp.org/
What to Look For In a Therapist
· You need a therapist who does not view being gay as a “problem.” One who has additional training on what it means to be gay would be ideal.
· Before you begin as a patient, ask the therapist his or her opinions of LGBT people and lifestyles. What is the therapist’s views on LGBTQ issues most relevant to you? What type of approach does he/she take? Is it gay affirmative therapy?
What To Look For In The Office
· Ellen Friedrichs of About.Com recommends that you peruse the magazines in the waiting room. Do any of them pertain to the gay and lesbian population or are they right-wing Christian publications?
· On the informational intake form, does it just say “single” or “married?” Or does it also have a box marked “sexual orientation?”
Do your homework and you’ll be more likely to find a compatible match for your child, resulting in a happier and healthier state of mind.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.