Coming Out: Therapy for LGBTQ Persons

A black transgender woman sits in front of a computer while participating in a session of telehealth therapy for LGBTQ persons

“Coming out” can be anxiety-provoking, scary, and hard for many. Therapy can help LGBTQ people accept themselves and navigate the coming out process.

Key takeaways:

  • Coming out as an LGBTQ person can be scary and difficult.

  • The Cass Theory, developed by Vivian Cass, is a six-stage model that describes the identification revelation process for many.

  • Make a conscious and deliberate decision about who you will tell first.

  • Choose a safe, supportive person and environment in which to have the discussion.

  • Be prepared for challenging reactions. Have a plan on how you’ll handle them and what coping skills you can use.

  • Find allies you trust to help support you.

  • Know that you are worthy of being your whole self regardless of who accepts or rejects you.

  • Utilize resources, such as support groups in your area.

  • Consider getting professional help from an LGBTQ-friendly therapist.

The decision to “come out” can be quite difficult. While many LGBTQ people are met with support from their family and friends, there are just as many who are rejected. They may be subjected to ridicule, abuse, or even kicked out of their family homes.

Transphobia and homophobia can drive hostility and discrimination towards LGBTQ people. This discrimination can occur on a personal level or systemically or institutionally. Unfortunately, it occurs too often: 85% of LGBTQ students say they have experienced verbal harassment at school. The discrimination these children face is harmful and can impact their mental health. Studies on LGBTQ youth show that they are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

From family disappointment to societal pressure, there are several reasons LGBTQ individuals dread coming out. In the end, though, it’s about accepting yourself and living authentically, reveling in the freeing happiness this brings. We discuss the six stages of coming out, tips for doing it, and how therapy can help.

The six stages of coming out

The Cass Theory, developed by Vivian Cass, is a six-stage model that describes the process of coming out for many individuals. You may see yourself and your challenges represented by one of these stages. They are: