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Got a therapist? Give them this!

by Jason Salzenstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday July 26, 2008

For many people in the LGBT community, finding a good therapist is made more challenging because we've got the added burden of making sure that the therapist we choose is not just on the same page as we are in terms of his or her style of therapy, but also that he or she is "gay affirmative." And while many therapists may have absolutely no problem with homosexuality, same-sex relationships, or even talking about gay issues or topics with their clients, that's often not enough.

That's where gay affirmative therapy for the straight clinician: The Essential Guide comes in.

"Gay Affirmative Therapy" (GAT) was first coined in an article by Alan Malyon, which basically says that there's nothing inherently wrong with being gay or lesbian. And while that seems like a simple concept, the reality is that many straight therapists- even the most accepting of them- often don't fully embrace it. In our heterosexist culture, seeing through the slew of misinformation, prejudice, and tendency to pathologize isn't easy for anyone. GATFTSC offers straight therapists the tools needed to counsel gay and lesbian clients effectively.

The book presents the basic principles of GAT to both the therapist and lay people alike. GAT is not a specific style of therapy, but rather a framework for clinicians to approach work with gay and lesbian clients, including basic tenants that they should bring to the table, including:

  • understanding and combating heterosexism,
  • recognizing heterosexual privilege where it exists-institutionally, legally, and societally, and
  • understanding and combating his or her own homophobia- and that of their clients.

    In general, GAT explores the trauma, shame, alienation, isolation, and neglect that often occur to lesbians and gays as children.

    GATFTSC also explains what GAT is not; in short, that therapists should not blame homophobia for all of the problems of their gay and lesbian clients, or to overlook mental and emotional problems. It does not de-emphasize emotional disorders and avoid examining any pathology. It does not explain and eradicate all the problems faced by gays and lesbians.

    The author, Joe Kort, teaches gay and lesbian studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, and has a private practice specializing in various issues including gay affirmative psychotherapy and mixed orientation marriages.

    Gay Affirmative Therapy for the Straight Clinician: The Essential Guide is available at most bookstores and at For more information on the author, visit his website at

    Twitter :: JasonSalz Jason Salzenstein is a writer and editor; design, image, and marketing consultant; and professional shopper. His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications and he has clients around the world. For more information ::