Choosing A Transgender Affirming Therapist
What Makes A Therapist “Trans-Affirming”?
For transgender individuals, finding a therapist who is transgender can be extremely difficult. They often feel lost in a large gap where many therapists are completely uncomfortable, and unwilling to work with them versus those who feel comfortable, but who aren’t educated in trans-related issues. This list can help transgender individuals who are considering participation in therapy make a decision about who they should work with.
1. The therapist will not know everything.
Nor will they pretend to. Although a trans-affirming therapist will likely have education on how to best help a transgender person with self-acceptance, coming out, and even transitioning, no two people, or transitions are identical. This means that these therapists will need ongoing education, and will be open when they don’t understand something and need more information. It also means that they are willing to continue to receive ongoing education from others to continue to grow their own knowledge base about gender care.
2. The therapist should know the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, anatomy and sexuality.
LGBTQIA is a term that is thrown around too loosely. People may say that they work with this, but then they actually don’t plan on working with trans individuals, or feel comfortable with transgender specific issues.
The therapist also needs to have an understanding of the difference between sexuality and gender identity, and will help you express your identified gender(s) in a way that feels authentic to you. They also can talk with you about your sexual orientation and help you fully accept that as who you are, rather than define you.
3. A trans-affirming therapist will not hold you hostage with a letter.
Some physicians require a letter before they will prescribe hormone therapy. A therapist who is affirming will discuss expectations, concerns, and emotions relating to beginning such therapies. There should be specific steps a transgender client can take to begin working towards this goal if this is what the client wants. There shouldn’t be vague expectations that remain unclear to reach this goal.
4. The therapist needs to understand that everyone is different.
Transgender-affirming therapy will not treat everyone’s transition alike. They understand that some people want hormone therapy, others do not. While some want surgery, others do not. Everyone has a different progressive timeline, and these therapists understand this.
5. They will focus on your comfort, not just their own.
The therapist should have a better answer when asked about transgender experience than “I feel comfortable.” It’s important that they do feel comfortable, but trans-affirming therapy is about the client feeling comfortable. Knowing that this is someone who you can open up to, and talk about your life is most important. Ask them how they can increase your level of comfort.
6. Avoid therapists who use terms such as “conversion” or “reparative”.
These shame-based practices have the focus on trans individuals changing this part of who they are. They often mix up issues of gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexuality. Therapists who are affirming will help you accept this part of who you are, without encouraging you to change it. They’ll help you figure out who you are in this world, and the best way to express and embrace it.
7. They will not tell you what to do with your relationships or marriage.
Relationships are a very personal issue. Many people who come to identify their gender are already in a relationship. This can be a complicated matter, that may require a great deal of discussion. Your therapist will help you figure out what it is that you truly want, but they won’t make these decisions for you.
8. They understand that gender is not binary.
Our society tends to put gender in either strict male or female roles. Many people are in the middle of this spectrum. A trans affirming therapist will help you express this in a way that feels most authentic to you. They will not push you into a male or female expression unless that is how you want to express your gender.
This is not a complete list of issues to consider. However, these are common problems that I know exist and make it challenging for trans individuals to find a therapist who they feel comfortable with.
Vantage Point Counseling offers various treatment options for different addictions and mental illnesses. With their help, thousands of people have been able to find healing and help for various mental health issues that may be fighting. They can’t wait to help you too. Visit them at their main site to learn more.