Gender Therapy: How to Find a Gender Therapist
Whether you feel called to challenge gender roles or struggle to accept certain parts of your body, you might experience challenges related to your gender. Gender therapy can help anyone questioning and exploring their gender identity, feeling uncomfortable with aspects of their gender, or seeking gender-affirming interventions. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to identify in a way other than cisgender to reap the benefits of gender therapy.
Especially if you’ve had a negative experience with therapy before, it’s completely normal to have fears about finding a therapist who acts as a gatekeeper or has limited knowledge of gender identity issues. Fortunately, due to increased accessibility and availability to gender therapists in recent years, it’s easier and more convenient for gender-questioning individuals to receive the support they need. Here’s what you need to know to find an authentic, compassionate gender therapist.
How can you find a gender therapist?
Finding a gender therapist you feel comfortable with isn’t always easy, especially if you live in a small town or lack access to mental health specialists. If you’re not sure where to start, some helpful strategies for finding a gender specialist include:
- Online therapy platforms. Online therapy platforms can provide access to a wide range of inclusive mental health professionals from the comfort of your own home. For example, The Therapy Group of DC uses data-driven, personalized treatment to provide online counseling and psychotherapy services for gender-questioning individuals.
- Online therapist directories. Online directories like Psychology Today, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) offer directories of LGBTQ+-friendly mental health providers in the United States.
- Referrals. If your medical providers are familiar with gender identity issues, consider asking if they have any recommendations for gender therapists, support groups, or group therapy. Additionally, if you have nonbinary or transgender friends, try asking them for recommendations.
- Local LGBTQ+ organizations. Your community’s local LGBTQ+ health center may offer mental health care or provide referrals to local gender therapists.
What should you look for in a gender therapist?
Although general therapists and clinicians may receive rudimentary gender diversity and LGBTQ+ training, it’s not always enough to provide adequate support. Whether you’re navigating gender questions or exploring your gender expression, it’s essential to look for a gender therapist who seeks out continuing education, professional consultation, and training to stay up-to-date with issues such as:
- Gender identity
- Gender dysphoria
- Sexual orientation
- Gender-affirming interventions, such as hormone treatment and puberty blockers
- LGBTQ+ rights
- Relevant news and research surrounding gender identity issues
Everyone has unique needs, and your gender therapist should tailor your treatment as needed. Because many people who experience gender identity issues also experience mental health concerns such as anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse, your therapist may recommend a mental health evaluation to establish the best treatment plan for you.
Depending on your specific concerns, gender therapy may incorporate elements of psychotherapy, education, consultations with other clinicians, and case management. Your gender therapists can also help you understand your entire range of gender affirmation options, including medication, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones, so you can make informed decisions if you decide to seek medical treatment.
Therapists who adopt a gender-affirming approach should recognize that gender questions are a natural part of being human. Identifying with a non-cisgender identity, having a non-conforming gender expression, or questioning your gender role is not a mental illness and does not, unto itself, necessitate diagnosis, behavioral health evaluation, or psychotherapy.
How can you tell if your therapist is authentic?
After creating a list of potential therapists, you’ll need to do some research to ensure that mental health professionals aren’t just using the terms “trans-inclusive” or “gender-affirming” on their online listings without any real gender diversity training.
The best way to find out whether your therapist is authentic is to have a frank conversation during which you can ask questions about their training, experience, education, and therapeutic approach. Some questions to ask during your first visit include:
- What training and education do you have in transgender or gender diverse mental health care?
- How many nonbinary and transgender people have you worked with?
- Do you offer letters for hormone therapy and other forms of medical interventions?
- What therapeutic approaches do you utilize for dysphoria and gender identity issues?
- How would you describe your experience using gender-neutral pronouns?
Ultimately, the answers to these questions can provide some insight into whether potential therapists are qualified to provide the support you need. Because your first visit will typically serve as an informational session, don’t be afraid to move on to another mental health provider if you don’t find a good match.
Finding the Right Therapist for You
Above all else, it’s essential to find a gender specialist who you trust and feel comfortable talking to about personal issues. According to a recent systematic review, forming a strong therapeutic relationship can improve your long-term psychological outcomes. The right therapist can help you navigate your mental health concerns and understand how they intersect with gender identity.
To find the right fit, reach out to a mental health provider through The Therapy Group of DC. We know that opening up about your gender identity can feel intimidating—and we’ll connect you to an experienced, compassionate gender therapist with whom you feel comfortable. Whether you’re starting gender therapy for the first time or exploring your gender transition options, one of our therapists will provide the social support you need to explore your gender expression, growth, confidence, and resilience.