If you are gay or lesbian, you need a therapist who understands your experiences and can help you transcend the negative effects of growing up and living in a sometimes-hostile world.
While a lot has improved in recent years due to the work of the LGBTQ community, gay people still face unique challenges because:
Growing up gay is difficult
You may absorb negative beliefs about yourself that are hard to shake, contributing to depression, anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, and low self-esteem. Hiding who you really are from everyone around you is profoundly isolating. Pretending to be someone you’re not is hard work and causes all sorts of grief.
I can help you get through the shame, internalized homonegativity, and self-criticism so that you feel good about who you actually are and can live a fulfilling life.
Coming out to family and friends can be liberating, but risky
You may lose important social support. Though staying in the closet may seem safer, the closet is lonely, can contribute to mental health issues, and reinforces feeling bad about who you are.
I can help you weigh the pros and cons of coming out and figure out how to manage the possible negative reactions you may get.
You may have job/career difficulties whether you’re out or not
Workplaces do not always welcome employees who are openly gay. But staying in the closet can keep you distant and disconnected from colleagues, interfering with your performance, well-being, and advancement. If you are out, you may face bias (subtle or otherwise) that gets in the way of your career.
I can work with you to decide the best way to manage career difficulties you might face at work as a gay man or lesbian.
You may feel pressure to behave in ways you don’t respect, sexually and socially
Clients frequently tell me about behaving in ways they don’t respect because they want to fit in with their friend group and don’t want to be alone.
The problem is, when you don’t honor your own integrity or boundaries, you will feel pretty bad about yourself.
I can help you get clear about what it means for you to behave in a way that you respect. As the saying goes, “if you want to have self-esteem, behave in esteemable ways”.
Substance abuse is a special threat to gay men and lesbians
Alcohol and drugs can soothe the isolation, distress, and alienation of living in an often-hostile world, but they can also put your life on a ruinous course. I’ll be glad to help you think about how much is too much and what steps you can take to get and stay healthy.
Being in a same-sex relationship is challenging
Stigma and lack of social support still take a toll on lesbian and gay couples. You may not have role models for how to date, build a loving partnership, or have a healthy sexual relationship. Intimacy doesn’t come easily when you’ve spent much of your life hiding who you are. I discuss this issue in my Washington Blade advice column.
Because of the difficulties that stem from growing up gay or lesbian and living in a culture that can still be heterosexist, gay men and lesbians often struggle with tolerating both sexual and emotional intimacy. This can show up as serial dating, multiple hookups, or avoidance of any closeness. Here’s a clip from a talk I gave on healthy dating.
I would be glad to work with you to help you get past the barriers to finding and building a strong and loving relationship.
Becoming a lesbian or gay parent takes great effort
If you’re gay or lesbian, you’ve got some tough hurdles to get through in order to become a parent. There are many routes—adoption, surrogacy, foster parenting, alternative insemination—each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The process can be daunting, expensive, complex, lonely, and discouraging at times. You may not have any role models for being a gay parent, and you may doubt your ability to raise a child. Often, one partner may want to parent while the other is less enthusiastic (or just plain uninterested!)
For many years I ran the Maybe Baby group for gay men considering parenthood at Whitman- Walker here in Washington DC. I’m very familiar with the ins and outs of gay parenting; and I love helping lesbian and gay individuals and couples figure out a path to parenthood, from the initial big questions, “Can I/we do this?” and “Do I/we want to do this?” through all the doubts, complications, and dilemmas that can arise along the way.
Monogamy or Open Relationship?
Many gay men get lost in the pros and cons and peer pressure of whether to be monogamous or have an open relationship. I regularly hear from clients who need help deciding how they want to be coupled and I’m glad to work with you to figure out what is right for you.
I invite you to read an article I wrote on why so many gay men have open relationships.
You can read some of my articles to learn more about my approach to monogamy and open relationships:
- Why Do So Many Gay Couples Open Up Their Relationships? (Washington Blade)
- Open Relationships (HuffingtonPost)
- Gay Men and Monogamy (The Good Men Project)
- A hookup is not worth your life in COVID era (Los Angeles Blade)
Mixed-Orientation Marriages and Relationships
For all sorts of reasons, people with a strong same-sex attractions may marry or commit to an opposite-sex partner.
Sometimes people know they’re gay or lesbian and proceed with a heterosexual marriage due to fear or societal pressure.
Sometimes people fall in love with someone of the opposite gender despite knowing they’re primarily gay. And sometimes, people come to terms with same-sex attraction after committing to an opposite-sex partner.
Mixed-orientation marriages can be difficult for both partners:
- The gay partner often struggles with a lack of attraction to their spouse and a wish to be with someone of the same gender.
- The straight spouse often feels rejected and unloved and may have good reasons not to trust their spouse.
In addition to providing gay marriage counseling, I work with partners in mixed-orientation marriages in both individual counseling and couples therapy. We work together to help them figure out the best way to move forward in this complicated and sometimes heartbreaking situation.
My gay and lesbian therapy clients work with me to address the following:
- Relationship issues
- Near-nonstop pursuit of sex
- Considering parenthood
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Low self-esteem
- Finding acceptance
- Substance abuse problems and addiction
- Messy family relationships
- Career complications
- Work stress
Gay affirmative therapy personalized to you
When I decided to become a psychologist at 23, I chose my career in large part because I wanted to help gay men and lesbians build fulfilling lives despite the strong societal discrimination then prevalent.
I have decades of specialized experience in affirmative counseling for lesbian and gay couples and individuals to deal with these struggles successfully. I will be glad to help you find a path forward to a more meaningful, freer, happier, and more rewarding life.
I’m not a therapist who simply listens or asks you how things make you feel. Instead, I give my perspective when it is helpful, and I strive to ask thoughtful questions that will help you challenge yourself.
More about me
For many years I was honored to write a bi-weekly advice column in THE WASHINGTON BLADE, DC’s LGBT newspaper. I still occasionally contribute a column. You can read my column here. In addition, I recommend that you check out my blog posts to get a sense of my work as a psychologist.
I am licensed in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia; I have been in practice for over 25 years, and I am a native Washingtonian. You can read more about me and my credentials here.
Here are the questions I regularly answer for clients:
What is gay-affirmative therapy?
Gay affirmative therapy with a nonjudgmental therapist, who is experienced in the issues that you face in terms and knows the complications and struggles of being gay or lesbian allows you to:
- Build your self-esteem
- Challenge and change negative beliefs you may have absorbed about being gay
- Address the depression and anxiety that often come with a stigmatized identity
- Deal with possible disappointment and rejection from family and friends; and
- Manage possible discrimination.
How can a therapist help me as a gay man or lesbian?
A counselor skilled in gay and lesbian issues can help you to integrate all parts of your identity into a cohesive whole—allowing you to live your life genuinely rather than hiding different parts of yourself in different situations. In a nutshell, living in a way you respect helps build self-esteem and reduce depression and anxiety.
What do couples therapy sessions for gay and lesbians look like?
In gay couples counseling, we consider how the stressors that gay people face can affect us individually and as couples, and work to reduce the harmful effects of these stressors.
A gay relationship counseling session gives each partner ongoing opportunities to:
- Look at their role in their relationship struggles (as opposed to finger-pointing)
- Hear their partner’s perspective
- Work on collaborating to build a loving and intimate relationship; and
- Figure out what it would take to behave in a way that you respect.
In LGBTQ couples counseling, we consider how the stressors that gay people face can affect us individually and as couples and work to reduce the harmful effects of these stressors.
Online Therapy Sessions
If you are looking for a licensed psychologist to help you feel better, be stronger, and/or improve your relationship, take the first step now by emailing or calling me at 202-234-3278 for a consultation. I have been helping gay and straight individuals and couples since 1995. I work with clients in my office, and I also offer virtual telehealth consultation and therapy via secure video.