What are you missing out on in supporting transgender clients?

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at a conference around continuing education for providers around better work with clients who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming.  As this is one of my clinical specialties, I love to do these kind of trainings.

When I was initially doing my research for this presentation, I was really struck by a continuing theme.  Despite clinicians knowing how valuable it is to LGBTQ clients to have some acknowledgment of our offices as being a safe space, very few of us do it.  This is especially important to transgender clients as they often have had negative experiences in the medical/mental health professions that have sometimes been bad enough that it caused them to avoid seeking further treatment.  In fact, studies have found that only 10-28% of clinicians put up stickers or books to indicate their office is a safe space.  Less than 60% of clinicians have transgender inclusive language in their forms (Gugliuci & Weaver, 2014; Brooks & Gottfried, 2017).

These research findings mean that we can, and should, do much more to help our clients.  I am amazed at how frequently clients comment on the books on my bookshelves and how seeing those lets them know they are in an accepting space.  Acknowledging on your website that you treat clients with concerns around LGBTQ-related issues can also go a long way.  If you wish to educate yourself more, the following are great resources for reading:

  • Affirmative Mental Health Care for Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth: A Clinical Guide
  • The Gender Affirmative Model: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Supporting Transgender and Gender Expansive Children
  • Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients