4 Things to Do Before Starting Same-Sex Marriage Counseling

taking off the wedding ringIn June, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. The decision was met with responses ranging from cries of joy to waves of protest that rippled through every state. More recently, the arrest of Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, served as a blatant example of how a change in law does not equal an automatic change in the mind-sets or behaviors of individuals.

As much as we would love to believe that therapists are exempt from such discriminatory mind-sets or practices, we know this not to be the case. Not all therapists are made equal when it comes to working with individuals who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) or who are involved in same-sex partnerships.

Deciding to see a marriage counselor can be a difficult decision for any couple; inviting a stranger into your sacred partnership can feel daunting and overwhelming. Finding the right marriage counselor can be tricky, but here are some factors to consider when seeking a counselor for your same-sex relationship:

  1. Do a little digging. Take the time to read a variety of therapists’ bios and systems of approach prior to setting up an appointment. Does the therapist you’re researching specifically mention working with LGBT people or people in same-sex relationships? Is he or she a member of organizations that advocate for LGBT individuals’ civil and human rights? It’s worth your while to dig. Knowing a little bit about where your therapist stands and his or her level of expertise on issues that affect LGBT and same-sex couples can save you a lot of stress.
  2. Ask questions. It’s common practice during an intake session for a therapist to ask you and your partner questions about your lives and present concerns. Therapists do this to get a solid understanding of who you are and what you would like out of therapy. However, it does not have to be a one-way street. Do not be afraid to ask your therapist about his or her experience working with same-sex couples in the past or experience working with your particular concerns.
  3. Call a friend. Not everyone is comfortable revealing that he or she is receiving marriage counseling; however, asking another couple for recommendations can yield great results. Friends, family, and even coworkers can be rich referral sources and can often cut out a lot of the legwork by sharing the name of someone they think will be a good fit. Alternatively, consult provider listings from LGBT organizations you support, as they typically feature therapists who are both experienced and understanding of LGBT and same-sex partnership concerns.
  4. Open your eyes. Look at bulletin boards in stores and spaces that are LGBT-focused and -friendly. Coffee shops, adult shops, bookstores, and other social venues are opportunities to search for a therapist’s card or brochure. If a therapist took the time to put his or her information there, he or she might be a fit to address your needs.

For same-sex couples, the new law of the land opens up opportunities in terms of marriage counseling. It’s an exciting chance for such couples to feel validation and to work on their newly recognized unions with a professional. Doing a little homework about your counselor prior to setting up your first appointment will save you time, money, and emotional energy, and pave the pathway to greater counseling success.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Deanna Richards, LMHC, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Donna

    Donna

    October 8th, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    Just like the rest of us therapists are people too, and they are going to have their own thoughts and feelings about certain issues. I would definitely want to go to someone whom I knew supported the cause of same sex marriage to begin with and whom I knew would bring a lot of research and insight into the problems that the two of you may be having. You will know right away if you are working with someone who does or does not support the cause.

  • Sean

    Sean

    October 9th, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    I would agree that talking this over with friends could be an excellent way to find a provider who will fit all of your needs. It can be very telling when you talk to others who have been through the same thing because they may have some insight into finding a great therapist that you may not have thought about. I just think that these are going to be people who know you and may have some thoughts on whether you would work well with someone or not.

  • brigg

    brigg

    October 9th, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    you gotta make sure that this is a person that you feel comfortable talking to and working with

  • Jim

    Jim

    October 10th, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    So maybe working with these couples would make some therapists uncomfortable. Shouldn’t they have the right to determine who they would work with and who they wouldn’t? I don’t think that this has to be done in a discriminatory way, but if they know that they will not be good at it or do not agree with it then they should excuse themselves from working with those couples.

  • kevin

    kevin

    October 12th, 2015 at 8:34 AM

    I think that there are probably a lot of same sex couples who hesitate to seek out therapy for a number of reasons but the fear of being made to feel like they have done something wrong would probably be at the top of the list. I also know a lot of guys who would not want to have to admit that they need some help after working so hard and fighting so long to be together and now they are having trouble staying together. It’s just a whole host of misuses that I am not sure that the average couple would understand .

  • Carroll

    Carroll

    October 13th, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    I really so not think that there is any difference in what a homosexual couple would seek out than there is in what a heterosexual couple would look for in a therapist. Sure there may be some small differences here and there, but I think that any couple who is going into counseling is going to want someone to be open and fair, and who will be willing to listen to both sides. I don’t think that anyone would ever want to work with someone who is so blatantly choosing a side with one or another because that is not the point of counseling at all. This is someone with whom you want to work to help make your relationship better and stronger, nit just someone who is going to help you win an argument. If that is your goal then you are doing this for all of the wrong reasons.

  • Caren

    Caren

    October 14th, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    can you have a one time consult with this person before you decide that this is someone that you would like to work with?

  • Deanna

    Deanna

    October 14th, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    Caren – Absolutely! You’ll want to check in with the provider to make sure there are no consultation fees attached but setting up a time to talk with the provider on the phone or using your first visit as a time to consult is a great way to determine whether it will be a good fit.

  • Caren

    Caren

    October 15th, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Thanks Deanna. I have often worried about what you would do if you committed to working with someone and then you sort of found out along the way that this was never going to work out.

  • joe

    joe

    October 16th, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    I haven’t even thought about the local coffee shop. Great suggestion!

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