We live in a heteronormative society where heterosexual relationships are considered a cultural norm, thus individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ face consistent discrimination and marginalization. Living in an environment of stigma and discrimination often causes harm to the sense of self of a queer individual. All these stressors have a significant impact on their mental health. Queer Affirmative Therapy focuses on accepting and affirming the client’s identity and sexual orientation.
Why is Queer Affirmative Therapy Needed?
Many people in India find it hard to come out of the closet and live according to their choice, due to the fear of non-acceptance and rejection. This makes it difficult for individuals from the community to find a safe space for themselves. Queer affirmative therapy helps them to open up to a therapist who not only understands their situation but also makes them feel accepted for who they are and who they want to be.
Queer Affirmative Therapy is a practice that holds a positive view of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Queer persons, their identities, and their relationships. It also focuses on helping individuals to accept their uniqueness. Additionally, it can also address the impact of heteronormativity, transphobia, and homophobia on the people identifying themselves as a part of the community. Queer Affirmative Therapy also recognizes and addresses the intersection of power and privilege that exists across different social identities, which makes the therapy approach more inclusive
Affirmative therapy focuses on validating the client’s unique experiences of clients through verbal and nonverbal techniques. It also helps individuals to work on their fears and practice activities that encourage self-acceptance.
What does Affirmative Therapy look like?
Affirmative therapy begins even before the first session begins as an affirmative therapist is mindful of the therapy space, be it online or in-person. The therapist ensures that the therapy environment is welcoming and free of any signs or symbols that make the client uncomfortable. They declare their pronouns and ask for the client’s pronouns too. They try to create a sense of safety in those 50 minutes to open up regarding vulnerable parts of their lives.
A Queer Affirmative Therapist is sensitive to how heteronormativity leads to unique stressors such as social isolation, discrimination and erasure in the life of a queer individual which harms their mental health. They focus on building trust by using inclusive language, reflecting and validating what the client says about themselves, their identity, and their experience.
Is being Queer Affirmative the same as being Queer Friendly?
The terms ‘Queer-Affirmative’ and ‘Queer Friendly’ are almost used interchangeably, but they can have very different meanings. A queer-friendly therapist may be accepting and non-discriminatory towards queer individuals, but they may not have the knowledge and expertise to support queer clients,
A queer affirmative therapist goes beyond acceptance and takes an active stance in supporting and empowering their clients. A queer affirmative therapist is self-reflective and actively works to deconstruct their own beliefs about the influence of cis-genderism and heterosexism in therapy, while also advocating for LGBTQIA+ communities outside the mental health system. They keep expanding their knowledge of Queer affirmative therapy through continued training and regular interactions with queer persons.
How to find a Queer Affirmative Therapist?
Although there are no objective measures to say if a therapist is Queer-Affirmative, there are a few ways to determine if a therapist is Queer Affirmative. They are:
- The therapist is certified and trained to practice Queer-Affirmative Therapy
- Have an open discussion with the therapist to check if they practice Queer Affirmative Therapy
- Most queer affirmative therapists mention that they are queer affirmative on social media platforms and websites. This is because they realise that it is very difficult for marginalised communities to find safe space and doing so makes therapy more accessible for their clients.
One of the aims of therapy is to make every individual feel safe and free to express all aspects of themselves. While homosexuality has been decriminalized in India, individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+ still struggle with a lot of challenges, when it comes to gaining acceptance in the current society. Queer Affirmative Therapy aims at providing them with a safe space where they are not only heard but also accepted and seen for who they are.
- Chakrabarty, P. (n.d.). Understanding Queer Affirmative Therapy: Here’s Everything You Nee…. Retrieved August 17, 2023, from https://www.shethepeople.tv/home-top-video/unpacking-queer-affirmative-therapy-india/
- How Affirmative Therapy Supports the LGBTQIA+ Community. (2023, May 30). Lyra Health. https://www.lyrahealth.com/blog/affirmative-therapy/
- Queer Affirmative Therapy—Let’s learn how to deal with Depression, Anxiety & Stress—FeelJoy Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2023, from https://feeljoy.in/blog/mental-health/queer-affirmative-therapy/
- The urgent and indisputable need for queer affirmative therapy. (2023, June 22). Mid-Day. https://www.mid-day.com/lifestyle/culture/article/the-urgent-and-indisputable-need-for-queer-affirmative-therapy-232937176.
- Ranade, K.,5.Chakravarty, S., Nair, P., Shringarpure, G. (2022).Queer Affirmative Counselling Practice – A Resource Book for Mental Health Practitioners in India, Mumbai: Mariwala Health Initiative