Affirmative Care

What is affirmative care and why is it important?

12/29/20232 min read

Affirmative Care values providing a supportive, caring space for members of LGBTQIA+, poly/CNM and kink communities. With consideration of how clinicians can cause further trauma in erasing and pathologizing people's identities and experiences, affirmative care providers seek education and practice ongoing self evaluation to best care for the unique challenges of our clients.

Why it matters

Affirmative Care is a proactive response to ways mental health care fails many clients seeking support.

While well-intentioned, many of us are blind to how our training and implicit bias discount, and even harm clients with identities and experiences diverse from our own. This often results in clients experiencing judgement, feeling dismissed and that their goals are undermined by goals imposed by the therapist. Increased emphasis on multicultural training is helping practitioners to better care for and understand clients. One of the tools for this is understanding the Minority Stress Model.

The Sexual Minority Stress Model is a framework for seeing a person as embedded in systems that oppress and marginalize. Affirmative care is considerate of such stress as part of providing therapeutic service to members of the LGBTQIA+, poly/CNM and kink communities/identities that affirm rather than reject or pathologize folx identities and practices as the problem.

One example is with some dom/sub kink practices. A clinician not practicing affirmative care or specific training around kink is likely to see the clients' interest in being dominated as a means of self destruction or abuse. Affirmative Care providers are considerate of how these assumptions can be a disservice to clients seeking care. With the skills to differentiate kink practices from abuse, Affirmative Care providers don't shame or pathologize safe, consensual behavior that brings the client personal pleasure and fulfillment.

For clinicians

Clinicians must practice self awareness and humility to best care for those we serve. Clinicians seeking to provide affirmative care get formal education. An excellent source of training and education is the Affirmative Couch. To start, simply visit the website and browse topics and a library of live as well as on-demand trainings. The Affirmative Couch is a CE provider with a library of excellent trainings for Affirmative Care.

When not familiar with something a client brings to session, practice humble curiosity in being open about not knowing something, be appreciative they shared, and express intentions to seek further education or understanding. Seek this knowledge on your own outside of session because it is not the clients' responsibility to teach us.


Affirmative Care legitimizes and supports the identities and experiences of clients

Requires providers practice self awareness as well as ongoing reflection and consideration of one's own implicit bias

Affirmative Care providers are interested in understanding unique challenges of diverse populations and do not rely on clients for education, while also honoring the client's individuality

Providers can seek out consultation and formal training as part of practicing Affirmative Care