Does a Counsellor’s Sexuality Factor in Couple Counselling?

Posted by on 6 Sep, 2012 in Sexuality | 0 comments

Does a Counsellor’s Sexuality Factor in Couple Counselling?

Regarding the Gay Counsellor’s Sexuality: influential, detrimental or neutral?

Does the sexuality of the counsellor make a difference to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered couples when they all work together in couple relationship therapy?

In this post I will discuss briefly my experiences working as a gay counsellor working with LGBT couple clients in my private therapy practice.

Sexuality Differences – alliance or disunion?

Although differences between the counsellor and the client do not have to come into play during therapy, many clients seek therapists (at least initially) with a view that the therapist has to have some form of understanding or experience of the client’s complaint.

A gay male or lesbian female couple may chose to find a gay male or lesbian female therapist – and although the similarities in the therapist’s & the couples’ sexualities should not matter… it does to the couple.

In other words, as a couple counsellor, I do not have to be female to empathise with a female couple and their situation.  Although I cannot know what it is like for them from a personal perspective, it is my my training that I can ask the most effective questions so that I can learn what it is like to be this couple in their situation.

Interestingly, a number of gay and lesbian couples who I have worked with have, in varying degrees, expressed dissatisfaction of their previous relationship therapists – citing that the couple should have found someone of the same sexuality instead.  

  • (Male gay couple) “When we told him [the counsellor] about the difficulties in our sex lives, we noticed him shift in his chair noticeably-uncomfortable. We decided not to work with him due to this reaction.”
  • (Female lesbian couple) “We didn’t understand how an old, little, grey-haired lady could  really understand what was  happening to our failing sex lives.  She was very pleasant, but still…”
  • (Gay male couple) “Wanted to talk about use of gay saunas for sex (open relationship) but we were too embarrassed to bring it up with our [female] psychotherapist.”

Whilst I’m less convinced that it was the actual sexuality of the therapist (as opposed to, say, the couple’s projection or their reaction to something they might have misunderstood about the therapist) – we must be mindful that the therapeutic alliance between client and counsellor is one of the most effective relationships in therapy.  It is within this therapeutic alliance that the therapy work is done and if there is little or no alliance then the couple must be expected to find someone else.

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