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The Short Version: The Gay Therapy Center believes that LGBTQ singles and couples can have more success in their love lives when working with professionals who understand them. That’s why the practice has more than 35 therapists and counselors who are members of the LGBTQ community and who know how others can feel undervalued in society. Experts at the Gay Therapy Center emphasize the importance of self-love and self-care in developing healthy romantic relationships, and helping LGBTQ men and women love themselves and each other.
While members of the LGBTQ community are gaining more acceptance throughout the United States, they still may not feel that their lives have been entirely normalized.
“Heterosexual relationships still get a lot more social support than homosexual relationships,” said Adam Blum, Founder of the Gay Therapy Center, a nationwide practice focused on the needs of the LGBTQ community. “Homosexual couples aren’t thought of quite as significantly by the larger culture yet.”
That subtle devaluing can take its toll on those in the LGBTQ community, and when they seek help, heterosexual therapists may not understand their reality. Even if they can recognize the issues a client faces, straight therapists haven’t experienced homophobia — subtle or otherwise — in their own lives.
“If heterosexuals experience problems in their relationships, they’ll get more empathy,” Adam said. “Gay couples are less likely to get support, and there may be less outrage if they experience betrayal or being lied to.”
To address those issues, Adam founded a private therapy practice that catered exclusively to LGBTQ people. As a member of the community himself, Adam related to issues they faced as individuals or as a part of a relationship.
When Adam’s practice quickly filled up, he recognized that he couldn’t accommodate as many clients as he wanted. So he started the Gay Therapy Center, which now has offices in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.
The practice employs 35 therapists and counselors, all of whom identify as LGBTQ, and helps clients learn how to love themselves first so they can have more success in relationships.
“I knew from my own experience as a client that it was important to work with a therapist who’s like you,” Adam said.
Adam’s journey to creating a LGBTQ therapy practice began during his childhood.
“I always wanted to be a therapist. I grew up in a therapeutically oriented family that valued the importance of self-growth,” he told us.
Adam said most people, even if they had generally accepting families, often need support to work through their societal marginalization issues. Today, even though the Gay Therapy Center has locations in LGBTQ-friendly cities throughout the U.S., Adam knows that these issues are even more of a problem in other places. That’s why the center offers online sessions, and one day Adam hopes to open locations where the challenges these populations face are even greater.
“We suffer from feeling like outsiders, being different, and being discriminated against when we’re developing our sense of self,” he said.
The Gay Therapy Center recognizes and validates that LGBTQ people often need to work through the challenges they’ve experienced, especially homophobia. By working through these issues with therapists who have had similar difficulties, the center’s clients can begin to heal.
For example, one gay male client had formerly been working with an older straight female therapist. He shared why finding a therapist who understood him helped:
“After attempting to explain Grindr to an older female therapist, I knew I needed to get a gay therapist who could understand my experiences. The Gay Therapy Center helped connect me to someone who was a perfect fit and has helped me for a year,” he said in an online testimonial.
Specifically, many of the Gay Therapy Center’s counselors focus on self-reflection, which, in turn, encourages clients to explore why they might be self-loathing or doubtful. The idea is to identify self-perceptions so that clients can tame their inner critics.
“The more energy you put into self-love, care, and respect, the better your relationships become,” Adam said.
Therapists and counselors from the Gay Therapy Center work with both individuals and couples. However, the most common issues found across both groups are feelings of isolation or loneliness that lead to relationship challenges.
Many clients also need help finding companionship or learning how to date. Other issues include individuals in contentious relationships that they don’t know how to end. Many couples who seek therapy want to develop stronger connections with one another.
“About half of our work is couples counseling, and they typically want our support for better communication,” Adam said.
The focus on developing or improving relationships is common because many members of the LGBTQ community aren’t taught how to function within relationships or communicate well with their partners, Adam said. People in lesbian and gay relationships often have few examples of healthy same-sex partnerships early in life.
LGBTQ therapists can be better equipped than heterosexual therapists to confront those issues. Adam mentions the fact that half of gay male couples are non-monogamous. Though this is a common relationship configuration, gay men don’t always have the skills to navigate these open relationships.
“Open relationships are difficult and complicated and require exceptional communication skills,” he told us.
Though some clients believe their issues stem from problems relating to others, Adam said that they often need to address their own emotional needs first. Many think they just need to behave differently, or date differently, to find the right romantic relationship.
“It’s really more about you than about a partner,” Adam tells his clients. “If you don’t love yourself, or are extremely critical of yourself, it will be much more difficult to connect in love.”
That’s why his advice for anyone struggling to find love is to address their own issues first.
The Gay Therapy Center was founded to provide members of the LGBTQ community counseling from therapists with shared experiences. But that identity is just one of many traits that make up a person, and the center’s clients can find therapists with whom they connect on many different levels.
“The marker of a good therapy outcome is a close connection to the therapist,” Adam said.
Some clients want a therapist they can see in person, so they look for a local therapist in one of the Gay Therapy Center’s offices. However, the center also offers a robust online counseling practice that caters to clients worldwide, including in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.
Both local and international clients can find a therapist who specializes in an area on which they want to focus. For example, those who struggle with anxiety can find a therapist experienced in treating their condition.
“We’ll match you with the therapist who is the most helpful for you,” Adam explained.
Over the years, Adam has been satisfied by the Gay Therapy Center’s ever-increasing number of both clients and therapists. He understands that the work he and his colleagues do is important in enhancing the self-esteem and self-worth of their LGBTQ clients.
“It’s healing to be with someone in a therapeutic environment who’s on your side and doesn’t have negative experiences or connotations about gay people,” he said.