It’s not easy to deal with sexual identity confusion in a constructive, relational way that’s in line with the Christian faith. Controversy surrounds professional therapy for teens who question their sexuality; some counselors want to promote LGBT values instead of God’s design. However, counseling that’s respectful, safe, ethical, and responsive to a client’s needs is available. Keep reading for more details about:
How to find counseling support for your teen
Questions to ask a potential therapist
Common concerns parents have about finding counseling for their teen
How to find counseling support for your teen
Finding a good match for your child comes down to three basic parts: leaning on God’s help for discernment, researching potential counselors before talking to them, and asking questions of those counselors. (Our upcoming section on questions to ask a potential therapist who might counsel your child gives some guidelines on that last point.)
Start with prayer
Ask the Lord to give you insight to make this important decision with wisdom and discernment. He knows your situation, and He can lead you to the individual best able to help your child. Ultimately, it’s not the wisdom of man that heals; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
Sin impacts each of us. Personal wrongdoing as well as living in an imperfect world deeply affects everyone. Still, every human possesses inherent dignity and immeasurable worth. Individuals with same-sex attractions or gender concerns often suffer questions that are deeply complicated.
Maybe you feel helpless about, frustrated by, or ashamed of your daughter’s behavior. Or maybe you’re tempted to believe you’ve done something wrong as a parent. But the fact is that your loving response (graciously speaking God’s truth) to your daughter can help set the stage for a positive interaction with a professional counselor.
When you sense another argument starting between you and your daughter, pause and remember that God created your child. He won’t stop drawing her heart back to His, and He’ll help you love your teen in the best ways possible.
Understand what a careful and compassionate counseling approach looks like
Before you search for a counselor, we encourage you to read our ministry statement about counseling for sexual identity concerns. It outlines Focus on the Family’s approach to the topic and can give you a framework as you research therapists. You might also want to browse three of our webpages that include personal stories, Q&As, and resource recommendations:
Check Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network
Focus on the Family doesn’t endorse a specific counselor or therapeutic model, but we can point you to our Christian Counselors Network. Each counselor has their own specialties. Still, they must agree with Focus on the Family’s values and our ministry approach as outlined in Counseling for Sexual Identity Concerns.
Research potential counselors’ websites
Having a web presence is increasingly common for therapists. Before you reach out to a potential counselor, take time to look around their website. See if they’ve disclosed what they believe about sexuality and transgender issues.
Consider other organizations
You might also consider material and support group details from these organizations:
Be ready to join the counseling process yourselves
No matter the issue, many professionals want to know the entire context (such as interconnected feelings and needs) of the household where a struggling teen grows up. Over time, having family sessions or different combinations of family members can help coordinate care and create harmony and positive outcomes.
Questions to ask a potential therapist
The topic of sexual identity can be polarizing. Even counselors who align with your Christian values might feel threatened when you ask questions about their beliefs, therapeutic approach, and general manner of practice.
So do your best to talk to potential therapists with a non-confrontational tone and open-ended questions. You’re not interrogating them. Rather, their responses can give you insight into how they potentially would counsel your child.
And try to have early conversations with the professional who might oversee your daughter’s care. At least one initial chat with you before a therapist starts counseling your child will help them get to know you and trust that your intentions are safe.
Here are three questions we recommend you ask a potential counselor.
Can I meet with you before my child does so that I can give you background on our family?
This question is a good one to start with. If you can meet with the counselor beforehand, you’ll be able to ask the rest of these questions and be in a better position to decide if the therapist will be a good fit for your child’s care.
On the other hand, a potential counselor might require meeting with your teen before they talk at length with you. If so, you’ll need to decide how comfortable you feel about your teen possibly building rapport with that counselor before you’ve had a chance to evaluate the individual more deeply.
To what extent will I be included in my teen’s care? How much will you be allowed to communicate with me?
Individual state laws affect how licensed counselors handle confidentiality for a minor. Yes, you can and should advocate for your child. But be aware that the therapist may be limited in what they can legally release to you about counseling sessions with your child.
What are your views about biblical sexuality? What are your personal views of homosexuality and transgenderism? How do your perspectives play out when you counsel a minor?
You’ll want to learn if a potential counselor will find the balance between making your teen feel safe and valued, and upholding God’s loving truth. (If you haven’t yet had a chance to read our statement about Counseling for Sexual Identity Concerns, we encourage you to take a moment now.)
A wise therapist understands that feelings don’t equal identity — and that behavior, identity, and attraction are separate concepts. Look for a counselor who will hold your daughter’s tender emotions at the highest level of care.
Common concerns parents have about finding counseling for their teen who struggles with sexual identity issues
Why is it so hard to find a Christian counselor who supports our biblical values? Can I expect a secular counselor to respect my worldview?
Finding a Christian counselor who supports biblical values can be difficult in our current social climate. In addition to navigating increasingly complicated and divisive issues, therapists must also follow licensing board requirements and insurance regulations. Unfortunately, all this can lead to counselors becoming more guarded in how they respond to initial inquiries.
Nevertheless, finding a sound Christian counselor is possible, and we strongly recommend that believers receive therapy only from practitioners who share their faith. That’s because secular psychology doesn’t support traditional Christian teachings. Instead, it often makes the person the center of their decisions. To put it another way, secular psychology doesn’t acknowledge a sovereign God who loves us and asks us to trust and obey His wisdom and authority.
So, as we suggested previously, take time to research potential Christian therapists and ask questions — genuinely but gently— about their beliefs and use of God’s truth in their practice.
If my teen doesn’t want to talk with a counselor, could a life coach, pastor, or youth pastor help instead? Should I see a therapist by myself if my teen refuses all help?
We hold the church in highest regard and encourage you to connect with your pastors for emotional and spiritual support. Be aware, though, that they may not know much about sexual identity issues. And except in rare cases, pastors and life coaches don’t have additional specialization in mental health issues, developmental psychology, principles of systemic family therapy, and other useful therapeutic treatments. Still, they may be able to connect you with a ministry or support group that’s informed about sexual identity issues.
If your teen rejects the idea of counseling for sexual identity issues, consider this: You know your teen is struggling with sexual identity, but the thought of seeing a counselor for such a sensitive, personal topic might feel overwhelming to them. Your teen might feel like they’re being backed into a corner or will be condemned for their beliefs and behavior.
And even if your teen’s sexual identity struggle is the main issue to you, we’d gently point out that it’s probably not the root issue of their hurt. For example, your teen might struggle with underlying battles against social anxiety or bullying.
A trustworthy therapist understands that they counsel people, not problems — and that focusing on the whole person instead of one issue typically is the most helpful therapeutic method. In other words, they can address the complex issue of sexual identity while also attending to your teen’s felt needs. (Felt needs are self-perceived wants or desires — not genuine lack of basic or true needs.)
So if your teen rejects the idea of counseling when you first bring it up, try suggesting it again from a broader perspective. Leave out sexual identity issues. Instead, ask them what they would be open to talk with a counselor about. Difficult relationships with family and friends? Communication stresses and skills? Assurance of their worth? How to identify strengths and set personal and professional goals for the future?
And what if, after all that, your teen still refuses to see a counselor? Yes, you should still work with a professional Christian therapist. Being the healthiest parent you can be helps your teen — regardless of whether they’re open to counseling.
Would a Christian counselor shame my child for their sexual identity confusion?
A child needs to feel safe and valued in a counseling setting. A wise, caring counselor understands that there is no place for shame, degradation, or coercion of any child, teen, or adult in the tender journey of sexual development — including in the sacred space of counseling. Sound professional therapy meets individuals at their points of need to relieve anxiety, clarify values, and work toward their chosen aims.
What are my legal rights as a parent? How do I know if my boundaries have been violated?
If a school, organization, or other individual has encouraged your child to use a different name or pronoun, if they’ve encouraged your child to pursue medical interventions (including puberty blockers and “gender affirming” surgical procedures), or if you face custody challenges because of these issues, we encourage you to contact one of these legal groups for advice:
Alliance Defending Freedom
Christian Legal Society
Pacific Justice Institute
Christian family lawyers in your state
Would you let us help?
We know this is a complicated, sensitive situation. You love your daughter and want her to be whole, healthy, and happy — but the world doesn’t make it easy. Would you like to talk more before taking the next step of finding ongoing professional counseling?
Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation at 1-855-771-HELP (4357). You can also fill out our online form to request a callback. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would welcome the chance to hear your story and talk with you in more detail.