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What is a Gender Therapist?
A Gender Specialist is "...an active practitioner in psychotherapy, counseling, or education directly oriented toward gender-identity issues. It is recommended that care providers interested in establishing themselves as Gender Specialists undergo a minimum of two years of direct supervision or consultation with a practicing Senior Gender Specialist who is recognized as having advanced experience in providing consultation to peer practitioners."
Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information & Personal Accounts Gianna E. Israel & Donald E. Tarver II, M.D., 1997, Pg 12
Excerpt below from the World Professional Association for Transgender Care, Standards of Care Version 7, 2011
Competency of Mental Health Professionals Working with Adults Who Present with Gender Dysphoria
The training of mental health professionals competent to work with gender dysphoric adults rests upon basic general clinical competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health concerns. Clinical training may occur within any discipline that prepares mental health professionals for clinical practice, such as psychology, psychiatry, social work, mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, nursing, or family medicine with specific training in behavioral health and counseling. The following are recommended minimum credentials for mental health professionals who work with adults presenting with gender dysphoria:
1. A master’s degree or its equivalent in a clinical behavioral science field. This degree, or a more advanced one, should be granted by an institution accredited by the appropriate national or regional accrediting board. The mental health professional should have documented credentials from a relevant licensing board or equivalent for that country.
2. Competence in using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and/or the International Classification of Diseases for diagnostic purposes.
3. Ability to recognize and diagnose co-existing mental health concerns and to distinguish these from gender dysphoria.
4. Documented supervised training and competence in psychotherapy or counseling.
5. Knowledgeable about gender nonconforming identities and expressions, and the assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria.
6. Continuing education in the assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria. This may include attending relevant professional meetings, workshops, or seminars; obtaining supervision from a mental health professional with relevant experience; or participating in research related to gender nonconformity and gender dysphoria.
In addition to the minimum credentials above, it is recommended that mental health professionals develop and maintain cultural competence to facilitate their work with transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming clients. This may involve, for example, becoming knowledgeable about current community, advocacy, and public policy issues relevant to these clients and their families. Additionally, knowledge about sexuality, sexual health concerns, and the assessment and treatment of sexual disorders is preferred.
Mental health professionals who are new to the field (regardless of their level of training and other experience) should work under the supervision of a mental health professional with established competence in the assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria.
---END WPATH Standards of Care Version 7 Text Excerpt
The 2022 WPATH SOC8 has specific recommendations around knowledge for child, adolescent and adult providers in each of those sections.
Therapists:Follow my practice via Twitter including topics of interest to therapists who care for LGBTIQQ people
"In 1999, when I embarked on this rewarding field, I found consultation with experienced, Senior Gender Specialists pivotal in my ability to do this complex work well. Over the course of my first three years, consultation helped me become confident in my ability to create collaborative gender-affirmative care and to advocate for my clients in various medical systems"
-Lisette Lahana, LCSW
Contact me to schedule an initial consultation to help guide and build your clinical skills for your gender-focused practice.
Certification of Gender Therapists
The formal certification as a "WPATH GEI SOC8 Certified Member" through the Global Education Initiative (GEI) in WPATH is a newer process, initiated around 2017. The program helps to provide enhanced training and a way patients and other providers can feel secure in referring to competent and highly knowledgeable providers. However, the organization is aware that this process can become cost-prohibitive to lower income clinicians, many of whom are BIPOC, disabled therapists, non binary & trans identified clinicians who cannot travel to trainings. This process is not without complexity and WPATH is working to address inequities. As a WPATH GEI mentor I hope to improve the accessibility of the certification process by offering low fee slots in my mentoring groups.
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