Finding the Right Gender Therapist: How to Feel Supported and Seen | ENBYNYC
Author: Pedro Santos
Whether you're struggling with feelings around your gender identity, want to explore your gender expression, or just need some guidance, there are many ways to access gender therapy. However, choosing a qualified, professional therapist can take some research and effort.
Finding a gender therapist can be challenging, especially since most professionals aren't trained in the sensitivity and empathetic approach it requires to work with people who struggle with gender identity. Additionally, the field isn't regulated, meaning you could end up with a therapist who doesn't understand how to work with transgender clients or those with gender dysphoria.
Luckily, there are several resources out there to help guide you toward a qualified gender therapist. Start here.
Table of Contents
What is gender therapy?
Gender therapy is an approach that helps people explore their gender identity and develop strategies for living as their true selves. It's also referred to as "gender-affirming" therapy because it supports individuals in exploring their identities without denying them any part of themselves.
The goal of gender therapy is to support people in developing healthy relationships, finding meaningful employment, and achieving personal goals. In addition, therapists may provide information about medical transition options if they feel this would benefit the patient.
The process of gender therapy involves understanding one’s own internal experiences and external presentation (i.e., clothing, hairstyle, name) and learning new skills to live life authentically. This includes exploring thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to gender.
What Gender Therapy Is Not?
Some people think that gender therapy is the same as sex reassignment surgery (SRS). This is untrue. SRS is an irreversible procedure that changes the physical appearance of a person's body. Gender therapy is a process that helps people change how they view themselves.
It is not a physical procedure.
Gender therapy is also different from hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is a treatment that uses hormones to change the way the body looks and functions. Gender therapy does not use hormones.
Gender-affirming therapy is not a "cure" for being transgender. It is also not a way to "fix" people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Gender therapy can help people feel better about themselves and live more authentically, but it cannot change someone's sexual orientation.
Who Can Benefit from Gender Therapy?
Gender therapy can be helpful for anyone who is struggling with their gender identity. It can be especially beneficial for transgender, and non binary people who want to explore their options and make informed decisions about their lives.
Gender therapy can also be helpful for people who are uncertain about their gender identity. It can provide a space to explore these feelings without making any life impacting changes.
Gender therapy can also benefit the loved ones of transgender people. Family members and friends can learn how to support their loved ones through this process.
What happens in Gender Therapy?
Gender therapy is a process that helps people examine their gender identity and expression. It is an opportunity to explore who you are and make choices about your life.
Gender therapy usually begins with an initial assessment. This is an opportunity for the therapist to get to know you and understand your concerns. The therapist will ask you questions about your history, your family, and your current situation.
After the initial assessment, the therapist will work with you to set goals for therapy. These goals may change over time as you explore your identity.
Gender therapy typically involves weekly individual sessions. During these sessions, you will have the opportunity to discuss your thoughts and feelings about gender. You will also work on developing coping and problem-solving skills.
Family and couples therapy may also be recommended. Family therapy can help loved ones understand and support your transition. Couples therapy can help you and your partner navigate this process together.
What Are the Goals of Gender Therapy?
The goals of gender therapy vary depending on the individual. Some people want to transition to another gender. Others want to live in their birth gender but feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a different way.
Some people just want to explore their options and make informed decisions about their lives. There is no right or wrong goal for therapy. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and supported in your journey.
How does gender therapy differ from other types of counseling?
While all counselors have training in helping others, not all counselors are trained specifically in working with transgender people. For example, a counselor might specialize in treating depression or anxiety disorders, but not necessarily gender issues.
Additionally, while some counselors focus on specific topics such as sexual orientation, others don't offer specialized services. If you're looking for someone who specializes in gender therapy, look for a counselor who has additional training in working with the transgender and non binary communities and/or has experience providing care to LGBTQ+ populations.
If you do find a gender therapist who specializes in gender therapy and feels right for you, make sure he or she is licensed by the state where you live. You should also ask whether the therapist offers insurance coverage. Some states require that providers accept certain insurances, so check with your provider before scheduling an appointment.
If you're interested in exploring your gender identity, you'll likely meet with your therapist at least once per week over the course of several months. During these sessions, you'll discuss your thoughts, feelings, and actions regarding your gender identity.
You may also receive homework assignments to complete between appointments. These tasks will help you practice skills learned during therapy. They may include journaling, role-playing, and practicing new ways of thinking and behaving.
Why is gender therapy important for gender identity?
People with gender dysphoria often struggle with negative self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation. As a result, many seek treatment for their condition. However, research shows that only half of the people who identify as transgender actually seek mental health care.
Therapy can help address these challenges and improve quality of life. Research suggests that those who undergo gender therapy report improvements in overall well-being and satisfaction with life. Additionally, studies show that clients who receive gender therapy are more satisfied with their bodies than those who did not receive treatment.
Gender therapy can be particularly helpful when combined with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Hormone replacement therapy can reduce symptoms associated with gender dysphoria, including body image concerns, depression, and anxiety. It can also increase energy levels and decrease fatigue.
What if I'm already taking hormones? Can I still get gender therapy?
Yes! Many trans individuals take hormones prior to beginning gender therapy. In fact, it's common for people to begin taking hormones shortly after starting gender therapy.
However, there are two main reasons why you shouldn't start taking hormones without first receiving gender therapy. First, hormones can cause side effects such as mood swings, weight gain, acne, hair loss, and increased risk of blood clots. Second, they can interfere with the effectiveness of other treatments.
For instance, if you're using antidepressants, your doctor may want to monitor your progress closely. Similarly, if you're taking anti-anxiety medications, your doctor may want you to taper off them before starting hormones.
How much does gender therapy cost?
The cost of gender therapy varies depending on what type of counseling you need. Typically, initial consultations are free, but most therapists charge a fee for subsequent visits. Fees vary from $50-$200 per session.
It's important to note that gender therapy isn't covered by insurance. You may have to pay out of pocket for this service.
Is gender therapy safe?
While some people experience discomfort or distress while undergoing gender therapy, others find it to be an extremely positive experience. Therapy can help you explore your feelings about your gender identity and learn how to express yourself in a way that feels comfortable.
Talk to your gender specialist therapist if you feel distressed during therapy. He or she can provide support and guidance.
How Can I Feel Supported and Seen in gender therapy?
It can feel really scary to put yourself out there and seek gender therapy. But it is so important to find a therapist that you feel safe with and who understands your experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for gender therapy:
- Make sure the therapist is knowledgeable about transgender issues.
- Find a gender therapist who is supportive of your transition goals.
- Seek out a therapist who uses pronouns that match your gender identity.
- Find a therapist who has experience working with adequate support groups and transgender clients.
- Make sure the therapist has a good understanding of the unique challenges that come with being transgender.
- Seek out a therapist who will help you explore your gender identity and expression in a safe and supportive environment.
- Find a gender affirming therapist who is open to discussing sex and sexuality as it relates to your gender identity.
- Make sure the therapist is comfortable talking about sensitive topics such as gender dysphoria, coming out, and transitioning.
- Seek out a gender therapist who will help you navigate the social, legal, and medical aspects of gender transition.
- Find a therapist who is committed to providing support if you decide to undergo gender affirming surgery and offers inclusive care for all transgender clients.
Can I see my gender therapist outside of regular office hours?
Yes. Some therapists offer evening and weekend sessions. Others work flexible schedules so that you can meet at times that suit you best.
If you'd like to schedule an appointment outside of normal business hours, please call the office directly. I am sure they will make every effort to accommodate your needs.
Therapy can help address these challenges.
Research shows that those who undergo gender therapy:
Transgender women often face unique challenges due to societal expectations regarding their appearance. For example, many transgender women struggle with low self-esteem because they don’t look like “the girls” in their lives. They may also worry about being perceived as men instead of women.
Transgender men often face similar issues. They may not fit into society’s idea of masculinity, which is typically defined by characteristics such as strength, aggression, and competitiveness. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and isolation.
Gender therapy can help transgender patients develop strategies to cope with these challenges. The goal is to improve overall well-being and quality of life.
Gender therapy can also help transgender patients achieve greater social acceptance. By learning more about themselves, they become better able to navigate social situations.
Gender therapy or gender identity therapy can help transgender patients live authentically. It helps them understand their own identities and encourages them to embrace who they really are.
Consult with Mental Health Professionals Before the Gender therapy
Before beginning gender therapy, it's important that you consult with your doctor or Mental health professional. This includes mental health evaluation, behavioral health evaluation, and discussing your medical history, mental illness, current medications, and previous treatments. You should also discuss any physical changes you've experienced since starting hormones.
Your doctor can also tell you whether you're at an increased risk for certain conditions such as heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, your doctor may recommend that you see a psychiatrist or psychologist before beginning gender therapy.
How long does gender therapy take?
The length of time required for gender therapy will vary depending on the type of therapy you choose. Most individual therapy takes one hour per session.
Is gender therapy covered by insurance?
Most health insurers cover gender therapy. Please check with your insurer before making any decisions.
Does gender therapy have side effects?
No. Gender therapy has no known negative side effects.
Can I get pregnant while undergoing gender therapy?
No. There is no risk of pregnancy during gender therapy.
Are there risks associated such as mental health concerns with gender therapy?
Yes. Some people experience anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts during gender therapy. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your therapist. They can provide support and guidance.
How do I find one of the trusted gender therapists?
You can search online using the keywords “gender therapists” and “transgender counseling.”
You may want to ask friends, relatives, or coworkers for recommendations.
Call local mental health clinics and hospitals. They often offer referrals to qualified providers.
Ask your primary care physician for a referral.
Do not hesitate to ask questions. Your therapist will be happy to answer them.
If you're looking for a gender therapist, it's important to find someone who will see and support you for exactly who you are. We hope our list of recommendations can help make your search easier. Remember, if you don't feel supported by your therapist, it's okay to seek out another professional who can help you on your journey.
Transgender and nonbinary people need quality mental health care just like everyone else, and we deserve therapists who affirm our genders. Thanks for reading!
Pedro Santos is the founder and CEO of ENBYNYC, We at ENBYNYC are committed to helping our community and other members of the LGBTQIA+ family by creating a safe and welcoming space and providing the tools necessary to thrive. To learn more about him visit his bio.