Treating Addiction in Gay Men

When addiction manifests itself in gay men, there are specific needs that must be taken into account which are not experienced by the heterosexual population. That’s why it’s important to understand what kinds of criteria to use to judge programs and counselors when seeking help from this community.

There are many types of addiction treatment and counseling for gay men.  Each one has its own unique healing and recovery process utilizing various physical, verbal, and artistic therapies to aid in recovery.

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Common addiction treatment therapies for gay men include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Relapse Prevention Education
  • Trauma Informed Counseling
  • Expressive Art Therapy

These therapies are designed to treat the root causes that trigger addiction-related behaviors.

By finding the appropriate treatment program and facility, gay and bisexual men can have all of the tools they need to manage and maintain their addictions.

As we’ll discuss further below, some of the above therapies are better suited to gay men than, for example, programs that only offer traditional 12-step without alternatives.

What to Consider When Seeking Treatment

Since every individual’s specific addictions and reasons for using differ, it is important to seek help that fosters a supportive environment for a person’s gender, sexual orientation, and identity.

This fact is especially crucial for gay men as they experience incredibly high rates of depression due to years of repression, disillusionment with gay culture, and prejudiced hate speech from friends or family after coming out.

For gay men to stay on the path towards recovery, they must seek addiction treatment in an environment that is nurturing, supportive, and understanding of the particular hardships gay men face in our society today.


Choosing the right counselor to help you or your loved one with addiction recovery is not something that should be taken lightly or rushed.

A variety of factors need to be considered when you are a gay man seeking addiction counseling and advice from a licensed professional.

What to consider

In addition to educational qualification and training, gay men should consider these other factors when seeking addiction recovery and help from a professional addiction specialist:

Openness and experience working with LGBTQ community

It is imperative that gay men find a counselor or therapist that has experience working with the LGBTQ+ community.  Their role in addiction treatment and recovery must come from a place of understanding, compassion, and openness.

The key reason for this is that many gay men have faced hatred, prejudice, and in many-more-than-we-would-like-to-admit cases, total isolation from one’s family.

Gay men that find an addiction recovery specialist that can sympathize and understand the hardships, intricacies, and lifestyle differences that gay men experience in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts are more likely to be successful in their addiction recovery.

Familiarity with specific substance addiction

Gay men should seek out counselors that have experience treating the specific substances that seem to entrap gay men in the downward spiral of addiction.

A common misconception about gay men is that they all have copious amounts of drug-fueled gay sex, which is what leads them to become addicted to narcotic substances.

In reality, not all gay men fit this description, though there are many who engage in risky behavior through PNP and circuit parties.  These practices both promote the use of drugs and casual sex as a way of connecting to the gay community.

This mentality is especially difficult for those new to coming out as they can be searching for a way to feel connected to their new lifestyle after spending years repressing it.

A counselor that understands the substances used in these lifestyle specific situations can give better insight and advice to those seeking help for their addiction.

Comfort levels and commonality between patient and counselor

The most important thing for anyone seeking addiction treatment is finding a counselor or therapist that you enjoy working with.  This includes:

  • Similar beliefs and ethics
  • Atmosphere
  • Ability to communicate effectively and directly
  • Listens well and responds with appropriate feedback and advice
  • Being motivating rather than accusatory with feedback and observations

For some, addiction recovery can also be an easier and more productive process when working with someone of the same sex or sexual identity.

Types of therapies used

To avoid further triggering the emotional instabilities of gay men experiencing addiction, it is important to also look at what type of therapies a counselor uses to treat addiction.

Therapies that carry conservative or extremist core concepts can be dangerous as they seek to blame addiction on the sin of lifestyle choices rather than uncover and address the deep emotional traumas that trigger compulsive addictive tendencies.

In some cases, therapies that place unnecessary blame, guilt, or shame on a patient trying to recover from addiction can result in relapse, depression, and suicide.

For a successful road to recovery, gay men should look for therapies are structured towards acceptance, openness, and tolerance of their lifestyles.

In addition, gay men should look for centers that offer alternatives to traditional 12-step treatment. It is not uncommon for gay men to have negative feelings towards Christian churches. With the core of the 12-step model being centered on a higher-power that, for most clinicians who use it, is founded in Christianity, it can be a poor fit.

If there is not a desire to look at faith-based programming like 12-step, then one should seek out alternative methodologies such as SMART Recovery, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, EMDR, and others.

Addiction Recovery Centers

When someone has been an addict for a long period of time, sometimes speaking or working with a counselor just isn’t enough. Addiction doesn’t just happen overnight and recovering from the long-term physical, emotional, and social effects of addiction requires a longer period of intensive treatment and monitoring.

Long and short-term rehabilitation centers are a solution for gay men that have spiraled out of control with their addiction and need a safe place to re-learn how to function without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Gay men should take into account a multitude of factors before making the decision on the right recovery center for them.

What to consider


Due to the financial burden addiction (and recovery from it) can create, most find a rehabilitation center close to home.  While this may be convenient, it can have its drawbacks as well.

To be able to put yourself on AND stay on the path to recovery, you must remove yourself from triggers and temptation that allow for the indulgence and satisfaction of addiction cravings.


As a gay man, nothing can be more traumatizing than having to explain, justify, or make excuses for your right to life as a homosexual.  It is important to make sure that this is not an issue you will face with staff members at the treatment center you choose to enter.

Gender Dynamics

There are varying opinions on whether co-ed or same-sex treatment facilities and programs are better for recovery.  While the argument that same-sex treatment facilities are better as they keep patients focused on recovery rather than making a love connection through a perceived emotional connection based on shared experiences.

This is difficult when your same-sex patient base prefers same-sex encounters. However, it doesn’t make addiction recovery impossible or gay men.  It only asserts the fact that get men must look for treatment facilities that define clear boundaries, maintain an open line of communication between patients and staff, and promote forums for dialogue and discussion to discuss new feelings that emerge.

Core Principles

Seeking out treatment for addiction is never easy.  Gay men can experience even more difficulty in reaching and maintaining sobriety thanks to social stigmas, depression, and peer pressure.

When gay men find an addiction recovery center that specializes in treating LGBTQ+ patients, they can have a safe and tolerant place to explore the emotional issues that trigger their addictive responses.

Relapse Prevention Education and Programs

In order for gay men to stay clean and sober, they must seek out and engage in relapse prevention and education programs.  It is important that this education and preventative training be focused on continuing to embrace, nurture, and understand the unique challenges to addiction recovery that gay men face.

What to consider

When gay men are selecting a relapse prevention program, they should consider:

  • How the program works
  • What the core principles of the program are
  • Program requirements for commitment to sober living

Gay men should choose relapse prevention programs that foster a healthy self-attitude towards every lifestyle.  Whether this is through a 12-step program or an outpatient facility, gay men should make sure that their relapse prevention techniques fill them with the support and education they need to stay on the path to recovery.

When you combine the high rate of relapse for those that go through addiction treatment with the overwhelming statistics correlating gay men and depression, one can only agree that a relapse prevention program that caters to LGBTQ+ lifestyle is the best way to ensure stable recovery and avoid relapse due to depression.

The Bottom Line

Unlike with heterosexuals, gay men must consider a wide variety of factors when choosing an addiction treatment program or facility.

Without the proper support, the disease of addiction can often cause gay men to relapse and spiral into even more dangerous addictive behaviors.

Successful sobriety starts with open, tolerant, and experienced addiction treatment centers and staff that have experience working with gay men and the LGBTQ community.

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