Living in a society that constantly dehumanizes you and fails to respect your rights can be a nightmare. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for the vast majority of the transgender population. They constantly face harassment, violence, degradation, and unfair stereotypes heaped on them because of who they are.
The unfair treatment and hateful actions towards them strip them of their dignity. These factors contribute to the rise in mental health issues among transgender people. This is where gender therapy comes in. While it may not always fix the situation, transgender therapy provides a safe space for these individuals.
It arms them with the necessary tools to navigate through life more comfortably. Join us as we dissect transgender therapy and how it impacts the lives of transgender people.
A transgender or gender therapist is a licensed mental health professional who helps guide transgender individuals by providing support and coping strategies. These methods aim to help them develop a deeper connection with their gender.
A transgender therapist will tackle vital topics brought to them by transgender clients, such as:
- Gender identity issues such as identity concerns and expression
- Gender dysphoria
- Mental illness
- The rights of transgender individuals
- Transgender health
- Gender transition
A transgender therapist, in other words, is a licensed clinical social worker who helps assess and address issues trans people face in their everyday lives. They undergo regular training and continuing education to ensure they’re up-to-date on mental health care practices. Gender therapy uses different treatment options, depending on the client’s needs.
- Advocacy in the community
- Art therapy.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPAH) ensures trans individuals get the highest standards of health care. The governing body follows the Standard of Care (SOC), which guides transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming persons.
Does Gender Matter In A Therapist?
Is gender an important factor when looking for a therapist, especially for trans people? It’s completely understandable to have some anxiety or worries when choosing between a male or female gender therapist. Such fears are a natural reaction, especially when tackling critical topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation.
Clients may be anxious about sharing their feelings and experiences with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety for fear of discrimination. It’s important to note that there isn’t any concise research indicating the importance of gender in selecting a therapist.
What’s most important is identifying an individual with whom you connect and feel safe being vulnerable and open about your struggles. Whether your therapist is male or female doesn’t really matter. Focus more on your goals for seeking treatment and how well the individual is suited to helping you meet them.
What Can I Expect At Transgender Therapy?
Your therapist will adopt various treatment options based on the problems and issues you want addressing. The first session will be an introductory one, where the transgender client gets acquainted with the gender therapist. Gender therapy uses a model of care known as informed consent, a common concept to most licensed medical and mental health care professionals.
Informed consent forms the foundation for most patient-oriented decisions. Medical providers have to offer the patient comprehensive education on a particular treatment’s potential benefits and implications. They are also obligated to inform the patient of alternative interventions.
The informed consent model depends on the patient’s ability to comprehend and consider the choices. It emphasizes the transgender individual’s needs while considering the medical provider’s capacity to provide safe interventions.
Most therapists will begin with preliminary questions fundamental to crafting a safe and reliable course of action for you. They will want to know about your life experiences, topics you’d like to discuss, and those you would rather put aside.
The therapist can provide constructive guidance and solutions for various mental well-being depending on their expertise and qualification. Some of the conditions they can offer support services for include eating disorders and relationship issues with friends and family.
What Kind Of Gender Affirming Medical Interventions Do They Offer?
There are two main categories of gender-affirming medical interventions: medical and non-medical ones. These processes provide a holistic environment (see ‘Holistic Therapy Near Me‘ post) where transgender individuals thrive and live according to their desired experience.
Medical interventions include:
- Hormone replacement therapy
Where patients get testosterone and estrogen.
- Puberty blockers
These prevent the physical aspects of puberty that may be concerning to transgender young adults.
- Gender confirmation surgery
These include procedures such as hysterectomy, vaginoplasty, scrotoplasty, and mastectomies.
- Facial reconstruction surgery
Which seeks to alter the facial features according to one’s desired gender.
The other alternative is non-medical interventions include:
- Speech therapy
- Hair removal
- Chest binding
Issues That Transgender Individuals Face:
It’s how one perceives themselves and usually forms by around three to four years of age. It’s an entirely different concept from sexual orientation, which is more concerned with sexual attraction, ranging from gay, queer, pansexual, bisexual, etc.
One can identify as male, female, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, non-binary, androgynous. Gender expression doesn’t solely rely on one’s sex and can be different from one’s assigned sex. Expression of one’s gender happens through the clothes they wear, their voice, and even their hairstyle.
It’s important to understand that one can choose to present according to societal norms or deviate from them.
Some transgender adults may feel experience confusion and uncertainty surrounding their gender identity. These feelings may influence them to undergo cosmetic and medical procedures to facilitate transitioning into their desired gender. Transgender therapists will provide support and guidance to such clients through talk therapy or other suitable interventions.
Transitioning is the process by which a person seeks to align their gender with their physical appearance. It presents in two forms: social transition and medical/surgical transitioning. In social transitioning, one changes their name, dressing, and pronouns to fit their desired gender.
Medical transitioning uses interventions such as hormone replacement therapy and reconstruction surgeries. It’s an extremely vital process that will need support from trained therapists and community members, family, and friends.
Gender Dysphoria is a common mental disorder in transgender individuals. It is a distressful condition that occurs because the individual isn’t satisfied with the gender they were born with. It can begin in childhood, although most transgender people report experiencing it during or after adolescence.
Lack Of Support from Society
Many transgender individuals experience a lot of stigma and discrimination by members of society. Some even get discriminated against by their own family members and friends. These factors often lead to the development of mental health illnesses and disorders.
We live in a rigid society that refuses to hold space for transgender and members of the LGBTQ+ community. These harmful beliefs and misconceptions contribute to their hostile attitude and lack of support to this community.
Transgender individuals also suffer from high rates of poverty due to unemployment. They also do not get access to proper health care and essential social services. Some even get shunned and disowned by family members and even friends.
Many transgender people experience violence and assault and can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Inclusivity and support from society are necessary for the transgender community.
As a result, a gender therapist plays a vital role in advocating for social justice for these marginalized individuals. They help increase access to social support and educate the public on the need to value trans lives.
How To Access Transgender Therapy
Getting a suitable therapist is a great challenge for most transgender individuals. Fortunately, there are directories that you can use instead of going through therapist after therapist. The directories allow you to select these professionals according to experience, specialty, among other factors.
It’s essential that you identify a therapist who creates a safe and conducive environment. Additionally, one who is experienced with working with queer and LGBTQ+ clients is always a bonus. Ensure the therapist has received suitable training in gender therapy and related issues (see ‘LGBTQ Premarital Counseling‘, too).
A great place to start is WPAH. They have plenty of resources that you may find useful in your search. On the other hand, reaching out to a gender clinic might yield beneficial results. Asking members of the LGBTQ+ community for helpful recommendations is another practicable solution (see also ‘LGBT Couples Counseling‘ post).
Lastly, your insurance can also refer you to an appropriate gender-affirming transgender therapist.
Benefits Of Therapy and Support From Mental Health Professionals To Transgender Individuals
Gender therapy goes a long way in helping transgender individuals cope with challenging life situations and social injustices. The therapist will provide guidance and support to individuals suffering from gender dysphoria to find appropriate solutions.
A gender therapist provides a safe and accommodating space for trans people facing stigma and abandonment by their families and society. Through family therapy, they may seek to reconcile and restore these broken bonds.
What’s more, gender therapy can be useful in helping parents of transgender children and teenagers in supporting and holding space for them. It’s also incredibly beneficial to trans teens thinking of coming out or transitioning. The therapist will provide useful resources and information to facilitate and streamline their experience. Lastly, on a separate note, in this earlier post, we talked about sex therapy in marriage as a very important part of the relationship to help couples come to terms with each other better and improve their sex life.