Guide

Engaging authentically with your LGBTQIA+ patient.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Engaging authentically with your LGBTQIA+ patient.

Creating a welcoming environment.

It is important to create a welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ patients to bring their full selves to clinical appointments. Clinicians should work towards unpacking their assumptions, biases, and expectations of LGBTQIA+ patients. 

  • Ensure that all staff (e.g, reception, front line, providers) introduce themselves to patients using their pronouns and stating their role within the clinic. Doing so provides the patient clarity as to who they are engaging with, as well as ensuring their safety and comfort to share their pronouns (if they choose) during their clinical appointment. 
  • Collect SOGI (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity) information from your patient in order to better understand your patient and their specific health needs. This can be done via intake paperwork, or during the clinical appointment. Patients may not always feel comfortable volunteering this information, and clinicians  can open the doors for these and any other health-related conversations in a nonjudgmental environment. Remember: only use this information in clinical appointments when it is relevant to the conversation.
  • Be aware of specific issues, both social issues and mental health disparities, that impact LGBTQIA+ patients. Examples of these include coming out, having children - adoption or reproductive, increased prevalence of depression.
  • Knowing this information and providing guidance on these topics will strengthen the patient’s trust and engagement.

Language matters.

Language matters when discussing and approaching LGBTQIA-centered care. As a health care professional providing care for all, it’s important that you use inclusive, patient-centered language. 

  • On intake forms, expand current options to be more inclusive. For marital status, the form might read, “Relationship status: Married, Partnered, or Other.”
  • When asking patients to provide their names, it’s also helpful to include an additional space indicating “Preferred Name,” and “Pronouns.” 
  • Use an individualized and holistic approach by asking patients about their health priorities and goals. Acknowledge previous healthcare experiences with an attitude of respect and advocacy.

Addressing mental health risks.

While there are some unique mental health risks and concerns among LGBTQIA-identified individuals, it should be emphasized that LGBTQIA+ people also have many of the same concerns as the general population.

  • Mental health clinicians should be mindful of taking a holistic, patient-centered approach by treating each patient as a whole, unique individual, rather than a collection of risk factors.
  • Another important issue to remember is that while LGBTQIA+ populations are often combined as a single group for research and/or clinical purposes, each of these identities represents a distinct group with their own specific mental health needs. 
  • The experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals are not uniform and are shaped by intersectional identities and factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographical location, disability, religion, and age.

Respecting privacy.

Clinicians may be curious about LGBQ people, which can lead to asking unnecessary questions. However, you should respect that LGBQ people often want to keep their personal lives private.

  • Before asking any personal questions, first ask yourself: “Is my question necessary for the patient’s care, or am I asking it out of curiosity?” If it’s for your own curiosity, it is not appropriate to ask.
  • Ask yourself: “What do I know? What do I need to know? How can I ask for the information I need to know in a sensitive way?”
  • If your question falls outside these parameters, you can later educate yourself about LGBQ people with the resources listed in this guide.

Things to consider.

01

Educate yourself and your staff on how to welcome and validate LGBTQIA+ patients.  

  • Consider updating procedures, incorporating welcoming cues (e.g., rainbow flags, pins), and inclusive intake processes. 
02

We all make mistakes! It’s not always possible to avoid making errors, and simple apologies can go a long way. If you do slip, you can say something like: “I apologize for using the wrong pronoun/name/terms. I did not mean to disrespect you. Which pronoun/name/terms do you prefer I use?” 

Question to think about:

What more do I need to learn to better serve my LGBTQIA+ patients’ mental health needs?

Ask for pronouns
Ask how the patient is doing
Ask for consent before touching
All of the above