As one of the nation’s largest cities, Philadelphia is home to a diverse group of humans! One of these diverse groups is Philadelphia’s large LGBTQ+ community. Although the painted rainbow flags in the Gayborhood are fading, our support and affirmation of people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community is strong. We pride ourselves on being a group of therapists that supports and works with LGBTQ+ individuals and couples.
We recognize that there is a multiplicity to the LGBTQ+ community and that everyone who is a part of it still has their own unique story. We want to hear your story. Whether you are working through internalized homophobia or have questions about your sexual or gender identities, we are here to listen and help you feel seen and heard. We want to support you as you find the words to express your sexuality to friends or family members. We also understand the nuances of interpersonal relationships that are common for those individuals who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
We also recognize that you’re no different than anyone else and that you experience the day-to-day grind. That said, you may not have any issues related to your connection with the LGBTQ+ community but still need a space that feels safe and welcoming to you to explore and discuss whatever is coming up for you. Overall, we are well equipped to help you through challenging emotional experiences that you’re dealing with regardless of how you identify!
The Better You Institute is a team of therapists based in Philadelphia that has experience working with LGBTQ+ individuals. We are sensitive to the trauma some clients may have experienced living in a cisgender/heteronormative world. We welcome everyone, no matter what your sexual orientation, gender, identity, or relationship status is. We understand that it is important to feel safe and supported as you meet with your therapist and build a trusting relationship together.
What does LGBTQQIP2SAA stand for?
LGBTQQIP2SAA (also referred to as LGBTQIA+, LGBT, GLBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQ+) is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit, androgynous, and asexual. The shortened versions of the whole acronym may use the + to include all other identities such as intersex, asexual, demisexual, non-binary, gender fluid, pansexual, polyamorous, and many more. Below you will find a basic breakdown of what each of the terms stands for or is in reference to. Please note that not everyone who identifies as one of these terms identifies with the entirety of what we’re writing and may have their own understanding of what it means to them. It’s good practice to try to understand the person themselves, not the label they identify with. We also find this glossary of terms to be helpful.
- Lesbian refers to a woman who is romantically/sexually attracted to other women.
- Gay refers to men who are romantically/sexually attracted to other men.
- Bisexual individuals are romantically/sexually attracted to both men and women.
- Transgender/trans refers to an individual who may or may not have been assigned a specific gender at birth based on their sex characteristics but whose gender identity does not align with the one they were given.
- Queer can be used as somewhat of an umbrella term for those who are within the LGBTQ+ community. However, not all who identify themselves in the LGBTQ+ community identify as queer. Queer can also be represented as those people who do not feel they fit into the social constructs that have been created regarding sex and sexuality, orientation, etc.
- Questioning refers to someone who is unsure how they identify but are in the process of exploring and figuring out how they identify.
- Intersex refers to individuals who have a combination of both male and female sex characteristics.
- Pansexual individuals are romantically/sexually attracted to people regardless of their sexual and gender identities.
- Two-Spirited is an umbrella term used by Indigenous North Americans to describe people in their communities who do not subscribe to the two-gender norm and who take a gender variant role.
- Androgynous refers to a presentation of self as neither male nor female
- Asexual refers to an individual who is not sexually attracted to any sex/gender.
- Polyamorous individuals have consensual romantic/sexual relationships with more than one person at a time.
- Demisexual refers to an individual who can only feel sexual attraction towards a person if they have an emotional connection first.
- Non-binary refers to individuals who do not identify themselves as solely male or female.
- Gender fluid individuals experience various degrees of masculinity and femininity and do not identify themselves as solely male or female.
As listed, LGBTQ+ is a large and diverse community that keeps growing. Note that sexual orientation refers to who you are romantically/sexually attracted to, while gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being a man, woman, another gender, or no gender at all. Further, sexual orientation and gender identity do not imply sexual behavior and vice versa. For example, you might assume that being gay means that the man participates in anal sex. However, that may not be the case for all gay men. They may enjoy other sexual activities outside of anal sex. Whatever your choices are or if you’re curious about where to go from here, we want to help! We do not define you by the labels you may carry but rather the You that you are.
LGBTQ+ Main Issues That Affect the Community
LGBTQ+ individuals have been historically persecuted by society. Indeed, these individuals are often the victims of discrimination, whether in their personal lives or at school/work. People tend to struggle when their worldview gets challenged. For instance, someone who believes that men and women should be together to procreate may struggle to conceptualize two men being together. This challenge to their worldview of men and women being together may lead them to feel fearful. Their fear of being challenged in their worldview may then get projected as negative feelings towards individuals who are part of the group that is challenging this person’s worldview. Hence, minority communities like the LGBTQ+ community oftentimes experience hate crimes toward them. Statistically, LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of being victims of violent crimes, sexual assault, and hate crimes. For many LGBTQ+ adults, incidents like these might lead to difficulties keeping a job due to PTSD or other reactions to such harsh treatment or feel social pressure to conform to society’s norms. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth experience bullying and other social pressures that may lead to severe mental health issues or suicidal ideation.
LGBTQ+ individuals suffer from high rates of heart disease or cancer, a product of stress and often taking daily verbal abuse that adds up over time. These health issues can often lead to a decrease in overall quality of life and can even cause death.
LGBTQ+ youth is twice as likely to have experienced psychological distress or have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual students. Or, children may have gastrointestinal issues due to stress/anxiety.
Mental Health Issues
Individuals who are part of the LGBTQ+ experience violence and verbal/emotional abuse at school, work, or within society because of their sexual preference or gender identity, which can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, or depression. As mentioned, being a member of a minority group means you are more likely to experience physical or verbal rejection that has the effect of making someone feel excluded, unwelcome, unworthy, broken, ugly, lonely, etc. These feelings can be devastating to a person’s outlook of themselves and often leads to anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and higher rates of suicide. If you are experiencing any of the above, your therapist will assist you in evaluating which therapy is the best for you.
Internalized homophobia is also a significant issue in the LGBTQ+ community. This term describes when LGBTQ+ individuals take on societal narratives or their parent’s views of sex and sexuality that may go against who they are as a person and may become part of their own dialogue with themselves to the point of negative self-talk and a lack of self-acceptance. For example, a gay man who grew up in a home that believes gay men won’t go to heaven may carry fear for life after death and may want to change who they are because they believe they are bad for being gay. This individual may be in great tension with himself (cognitive dissonance) for what he thinks is true based on the home he grew up in and what he knows to be true within him based on his internal sense of self and his gay identity. These thoughts and feelings may be conscious or subconscious. They can lead to dangerous consequences such as low self-esteem, addiction, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and other trauma-related disorders, such as dissociation.
Substance Use and Abuse within the LGBTQ+ Community
LGBTQ+ people struggling with social isolation and bullying often lack support in the many trials and tribulations they face. This not only has harmful health risks but can potentially lead to legal trouble as well. Consequently, according to a study done at Columbia University, 30% of people in the LGBTQ+ community have used illicit drugs compared to 9.5% of people who identify as heterosexual. While not all substance use leads to negative outcomes, individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to utilize substances as a coping mechanism. Oftentimes, substances can exacerbate our problems rather than fix them. If you are using substances to help cope, numb out, escape your lived experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, we are here to help you understand your use and give you healthier ways of coping and help you to see a more positive side to your life where you don’t feel the need to numb out or escape.
Exploring & Understanding Sexual Orientation or Gender Identities
Human sexual orientation and gender identities are not as simple as society wants them to be. Many individuals do not fully understand their sexuality or romantic preferences and wonder about their gender. Unfortunately, society’s narrow views surrounding sex and sexuality, orientation, gender, etc., leave many people feeling unsure about themselves and asking if their feelings are normal, if they’re “confused,” or if they’re weird and need to change. It’s okay to be curious or question things. It’s also okay to know exactly who you are despite it not fitting into societal norms. However, you may also have intense feelings around this conceptualization of self. We are here to help you get through these feelings and work toward understanding yourself!
Some families may be much more accepting than others. Some families may want to be supportive, but they don’t know-how. Other families may not be supportive and may be at the root of some of your negative lived experiences as someone who is exploring your sexuality.
Seeing a professional would be your best option to explore both your relationship with yourself and your family and friends surrounding your sexuality. Therapy can offer you the space to ask yourself questions and explore your feelings without judgment. Indeed, talking to an expert can help to work through common challenges encountered by being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Why Is It Essential to See an LGBTQ+ Affirming Therapist?
LGBTQ+ affirming therapists are well informed about the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ individuals may face compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Through their awareness, LGBTQ+ affirming clinicians can create a safe space for you to dive in and get vulnerable with yourself. LGBTQ+ affirming therapists are aware of their own biases that they may bring into the room and do work outside of the sessions to minimize any impact that their own biases may have on their clients. They acknowledge that the LGBTQ+ community has specific mental health concerns related to social isolation, fears of rejection, or violence that may exacerbate existing mental health issues.
A therapist who is both LGBTQ+ affirming and knowledgeable about diversity in sexuality and gender can help you explore your feelings in a non-judgmental space. They may have information to present to you that you were unaware of but find helpful. This includes learning about yourself through the lens of the “big 3” (sex, romantic attraction, and gender) as well as how these aspects of your life interconnect. If you aren’t sure how to word what you’re thinking or feeling, the therapist may help guide your thoughts and actions so that they become more clear.
LGBTQ+ Individual Therapy in Philadelphia, PA
At the end of the day, everyone has different experiences that may be impacted by their ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Regardless of your background, you deserve to feel safe, empowered, and like you belong. That’s why we believe it’s of the utmost importance to work with someone who has an understanding of common issues for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, that can hold space for you without judgment, and who can help you feel empowered for change through seeing you as a human.
It’s important to start this process by finding an expert who is affirming and knowledgeable about the specific mental health care concerns of the LGBTQ+ community and has previously worked with LGBTQ+ clients. Our LGBTQ+ counseling at The Better You Institute in Philadelphia is a safe space for all personalities and ages, including kids, teenagers, and adults.
Joining an LGBTQ+ allied psychotherapy agency can help reduce social isolation, manage fears of rejection or violence, and normalize what you’re feeling. While we try to learn from you, as you are the expert, we come with our own baseline of understanding and sensitivities to your issues at large.
At The Better You Institute, we specialize in LGBTQ+ counseling for kids, teenagers, and adults. We pride ourselves on our allyship and affirming beliefs.
LGTBQ+ Couples Counseling in Philadelphia
Many of our clients who are part of the LGBTQ+ community come to us as a couple or in a polyamorous relationship-seeking therapy. Many relationships struggle with different types of issues such as:
- Lack of connection and intimacy
- Conflict resolution/communication
- Finding time for intimacy or exploring your sexuality together
- Questioning your role in the relationship
- What transition looks like for the couple
- Family planning
- Extended family discord and how it impacts the relationship
- Polyamorous relationship exploration
Here at The Better You Institute, we support you and work together as a team. Your therapist can help you and your partner overcome these struggles and others that you might be experiencing.
Our team of therapists are couples counseling experts and can help you and your partner(s):
- Strengthen the connection and intimacy in your relationship
- Better communicate about how to resolve conflict within your relationship and get to the solutions faster
- Explore if, when, and how to open up the relationship so that you both feel satisfied with physical/emotional intimacy
- Setting boundaries
- Making major life decisions surrounding family planning, opening your relationship up, closing your relationship, sharing your relationship with family/friends, etc.
- Understanding and being comfortable in the role that you play in your relationship
LGBTQ+ Family Therapy
Despite sexuality being a personal experience, oftentimes, family members interject themselves and their views onto an individual or couple who is in the LGBTQ+ community. We understand that it may be challenging to decide if you want to come out to your parents or other family members. We also understand that in spite of wanting to give support and love to a family member, it’s not always easy, or you may not know where to start.
Members of our team have specialized family therapy training and can help you navigate family dynamics surrounding your LGBTQ+ identity. Our therapists can help you:
- Come out to your family
- Setting boundaries
- Shift the family dynamic to something that works for everyone (e.g., from fighting to connection)
- Help family members take on a supportive role.
- Help family members work toward acceptance and understanding of your lived experience.
Virtual or In-Person LBTGQ+ Services
Therapy can be life-changing and help you to self-awareness. Choose the counseling method that fits you the best. We offer in-person services in downtown Philadelphia and virtual services for those in Pennsylvania. The Better You Institute is not prejudiced, and we do not participate in discriminatory acts.
Virtual therapy is available if you live outside of Philadelphia or simply feel more comfortable with LGBTQ+ online therapy. Virtual therapy offers the convenience you may need to accessing treatment. You must reside in Pennsylvania. Our therapists will work with you in a safe and supportive way by video chats on an encrypted platform.
Our office is in downtown Philadelphia. In-person therapy can often provide the sessions with the extra energy that you won’t get with virtual therapy. We can also guarantee your privacy and give you a confidential space away from family members or roommates. Whether you come in alone or with your partner for couples counseling or family for family therapy, we have a space that is warm and inviting. Our therapists will help guide you through this complex process and provide feedback on your relationships’ positive and negative aspects.