Many of us begin each year with resolutions to improve our health in one way or another. Reaching your goal may require a trip to a therapist or the doctor. However, finding a provider who is competent and sensitive to the unique needs of the LGBTQ community can be a challenge.
One resource that might help is the LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Kansas City’s online directories at www.lgbtguild.com. These list therapists and doctors who are committed to and trained in providing LGBTQ-informed care.
If you are unable to access the providers listed, for whatever reason, you might find these tips from the Human Rights Campaign useful when searching for a competent practitioner:
• Ask for referrals. Ask friends or local LGBT centers for the names of LGBT-friendly health-care providers. You can also check the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s health-care provider directory (www.glma.org).
• Inquire by phone. When you call to make an appointment, ask whether the practice has any LGBT patients. If you’re nervous about asking, remember that you don’t have to give your name during that initial call.
• Bring a friend. If you’re uneasy about being open with your health-care provider, consider asking a trusted friend to come with you.
• Bring it up when you feel most comfortable. Ask your doctor for a few minutes to chat while you’re still fully clothed — maybe even before you’re in the exam room.
• Know what to ask. Learn about the specific health-care issues facing LGBT people.
If you are searching for a therapist, consider asking these questions during your first phone conversation:
• What is your view of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and their relationships?
• How do you generally work with LGBT people?
• Do you see individuals? Couples? Families? Groups?
• What’s your experience with treating other people with problems similar to mine?
• What type of professional education do you have in working with LGBT clients?
• What kind of training have you had in working with the LGBT population?
• How do you describe your professional orientation to therapy?
• How long have you been in practice?
• Where is your office located?
• What are your usual office hours?
• What are your fees?
• Are you able to accept my insurance?
• Do you have a sliding fee scale? How does it work?
• How soon would you be able to see me?
(Source: LGBTQ-Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah)
Of course, the LGBTQ community is diverse and each of us has his or her own health concerns. If you are a lesbian or bisexual woman, ask your provider about breast and gynecological cancer. Gay and bisexual men should inquire about hepatitis immunization and screening, HPV and prostate, testicular and colon cancer. Transgender people can visit the Transgender Institute (www.transinstitute.org) for information and support. Issues that we share as a community that are important to discuss with your doctor or therapist include substance use, depression, anxiety, fitness and sexual health.
We hope these resources can help support your goals for a healthier you in 2014!
Kyle Danner is an organizer for the LGBT-Affirmative Therapists Guild of Greater Kansas City. He is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling and guidance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.