top of page
  • Writer's pictureTherapy Alberta

Affirmative Therapy: Embracing Your Unique Diversity in LGBTQ+ Friendly Counselling

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Pride flag

We have seen incredible progress in recognizing and accepting the diverse identities of folx in Calgary. However, many challenges still exist for individuals navigating their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. There also exist barriers in accessing inclusive mental health care. Affirmative therapy is a powerful and inclusive approach designed to support LGBTQ+ folx on their unique journeys in life and in therapy. Everyone needs safe, validating, and accepting spaces to be, learn, and grow.

What is Affirmative Therapy?

Affirming therapy, also known as affirmative therapy, is a person-centered approach that values and respects diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and relationships. It's like having an open, empowering conversation with someone who wholeheartedly supports and embraces you for who you are and where you are on your journey. The goal is to create a safe, non-judgmental space where LGBTQ+ individuals can freely explore their identities, work through challenges, and enhance their mental health.

10 Principles of Affirming Therapy:

Affirming therapy embraces diverse identities and expressions instead of the traditionally exclusionary and pathologizing practices in psychology and mental health care. Affirming therapists have spent time, effort, and energy pursuing training, education, consultation, and doing work to address their own internal biases. Affirming therapy:

1. Acknowledges Challenges:

Affirming therapy recognizes the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ community and seeks to improve mental health while empowering individuals. We understand the importance of validating experiences and acknowledging the impact of societal prejudice. Many people in the community have been targeted for how they dress, love, express or identify. You might have faced violence, inequality, or discrimination and lack family, social or systemic support and resources.

2. Respects and Celebrates Diversity:

In affirming therapy, all sexualities and genders are welcomed and respected. There's no room for judgment here – we believe that everyone's identity and experiences are valid and deserving of acceptance. We celebrate the beautiful tapestry of diversity and uniqueness that makes up the LGBTQ+ community. You can feel safe, seen, and understood.

3. Personalizes Support:

Affirming therapists understand that everyone’s journey is unique, so they customize their approach to provide the support and acceptance each person needs. They're like compassionate guides who help navigate the twists and turns along the path. An affirming therapist will honor and respect you and your identity, diversity, preferences, and goals.

4. Supports Contradictory Beliefs:

Sometimes, our beliefs and identities can feel contradictory or confusing with societal and familial messaging. You might struggle with your own gender or sexuality. Affirming therapy is here to support you in understanding and reconciling those contradictory beliefs, without imposing any judgment or pressure.

2 women holding hands

5. Challenges "Normals":

In affirming therapy, there's no hierarchy of sexualities, gender identities, expressions, or experiences. We don't label anything as more valid or "normal" than others, and we don’t pathologize your identity or expression - you don’t need to be fixed. We challenge oppressive heteronormative and gender-normative assumptions that negatively affect your mental health.

6. Moves at Your Pace:

Affirming therapy is a place where you can travel at your own pace. There's no rushing or pushing – only unwavering support allowing you the time and space to process and reflect as you navigate your personal journey of discovery and acceptance. Your unique story is what guides us as we work to provide a space where you can arrive and thrive just as you are.

7. Respects Agency and Autonomy:

Your agency and autonomy are of utmost importance. Affirming therapy respects your right to make decisions about your own life and provides you with the information you need to make fully informed choices. You can find LGBTQ friendly therapists who are sex-positive, kink-aware, and poly(am) aware.

8. Values Whole-Person Care:

Affirming care is not just for concerns related to your gender or sexuality. You might have concerns with something unrelated to your identity and are just looking for counselling where you won't experience oppressive or dismissive care.​ LGBTQ+ folks come to therapy for the same reasons as everyone else, and it is important to understand how their identity has shaped their experiences.

9. Evolves and Grows:

Affirming therapists understand gender and sexuality can present in many evolving ways and advocate for their clients. Affirming therapy prioritizes a safe and individualized space for processing, increasing support, embracing diversity, and encouraging empathy and reflection amidst change.​

10. Welcomes Feedback:

All people make mistakes, and affirming therapists might say or do something that harms you. An affirming counsellor should welcome your feedback and if they make a mistake, acknowledge their action caused harm, seek repair, and take steps to avoid future harm.

2 men chatting over coffee

Benefits of Affirming LGBTQ+ Counselling:

Affirming therapy can help you nurture yourself, foster resilience, improve relationships, and find safe spaces to share all parts of you. Affirming LGBTQ+ therapy focuses on:

Embracing Self-Exploration and Identity Development:

Affirming therapy provides a safe haven for LGBTQ+ individuals to explore and embrace their identities. It's an opportunity to delve deeper into understanding who you are and to nurture personal growth along the way.

Enhancing Mental Health and Well-being:

LGBTQ+ individuals often face higher rates of mental health concerns due to societal prejudice and discrimination. Affirming therapy can help mitigate harm by providing coping strategies, emotional support, and fostering resilience.

Building Stronger Relationships and Family Support:

Affirming therapy extends its benefits beyond the individual to create stronger bonds and nurturing supportive connections. Therapists can assist LGBTQ+ individuals in developing healthy communication skills, navigating coming out to loved ones, and addressing conflicts that may arise due to differing attitudes or beliefs.

Advocacy and Connecting with Supportive Communities:

Affirming therapists can help you connect with supportive LGBTQ+ communities, advocacy groups, and other resources. This sense of belonging and community can enhance resilience, reduce isolation, and provide opportunities for building social support networks.

A couple holding each other

Affirming therapy is an open and empowering approach that embraces diversity within the individual and LGBTQ+ community, and affirming practices can be used with all people to create safer spaces free from harmful biases. By providing acceptance, support, and understanding, therapists create a place where all people can explore, grow, and heal. Let's continue embracing the beautiful rainbow of identities and experiences that make you uniquely you!

Carol Korenowski is a mother, psychologist, and the founder of Therapy Alberta, a private group practice with psychologists, social workers, and counsellors offering trauma-informed individual, couples, teen and family LGBTQ+ counselling and therapy in Calgary and across Alberta.

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page