Mental health clinicians see an increasing number of transsexuals and people of different sexes (TGD) clients, but many of them do not have the experience to treat them in a way that affirms their identity and experiences. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have developed a dozen practical guidelines to help.
“The guidelines should be applicable to clinicians working in geographical areas with limited resources TGD communities, but it should be useful even for clinicians with more experience in treating clients, ”said Debra Hope, Aaron Douglas, a psychology professor and lead author of a new paper outlining the recommendations.
The recommendations stem from the researchers’ collaboration with members of the transgender and diverse community in Nebraska.
“For a long time, no one in the mental health community knew anything about transgender people [needs] “And if anyone showed up, they had to educate their therapist,” Hope said.
Progress was slow but steady. At the time, “people with good hearts … still didn’t really know anything, but at least they’re open and willing to listen,” she said.
“It simply came to our notice then. Now is the time for people to be truly competent and prepared to provide these services – both physical health and mental health. ”
Research efforts began about eight years ago, as TGD customers began appearing in greater numbers at the University’s Rainbow Clinic, which offers mental health services to residents of the Lincoln community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
Resources for clinicians are available, but they are largely not based on science or research, Hope said. Most are also based on work in urban coastal areas, which do not reflect the realities of people living in communities with different cultural, social and legal climates.
Consultation with a local member TGD the community confirmed the need.
“He said, ‘The services there are terrible. Didn’t you know that the services are terrible, “Hope said.
She replied, “Well, I said, ‘We can work on this.’
Funding from the National Institutes of Health funds a project to interview clinicians who specialize in TGD services and treatment of community members.
The 12 adaptations of the practice are included in an article in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice and are available on the website of the University’s Psychology Department.
“What we have to do is think carefully, it’s ours TGD customer identity, how it affects the way they interact with the world, and how it affects how the world interacts with them, ”Hope said.
In some cases, this can mean helping customers connect socially with others, finding “affirmative places to go” and dangerous places to avoid. It can also mean helping clients find work, especially in areas like Nebraska, where legal protection is scarce or non-existent.
“TGD people may come to therapy in part for gender identity issues, but they may also come for anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. … Part of the therapist’s job is to understand how relevant their gender identity is. It is always appropriate to some extent, but one of the mistakes of therapists is that they either overemphasize it or are uncomfortable, so they ignore it. It’s about finding that balance, “Hope said.
“Everyone has their own journey by gender. There is no standard path. It is possible for someone to start hormone therapy, plan surgery, etc. This has huge consequences. There are people who will not do that. So by being sensitive to what kind of travel people are on, you can help them navigate.
Hope said the research team plans to conduct training and seminars for clinicians, including online training. They will continue to work closely with members of TGD the community to adapt the guidelines.