Being able to access therapy with someone who can understand the experiences you are going through, bringing insight and lived empathy, is beneficial to everyone, most especially for trans and gender-diverse youth.
The 2015 US Transgender Survey, the largest survey ‘examining the experiences of transgender people’ in the US, found that 77% of respondents wanted counselling to talk about issues relating to their gender identity, yet only 58% actually received therapy. Trans people who identified within the binary of male or female were more than twice as likely to receive counselling compared to trans non-binary people. Access to therapy also depended on income, as trans people with the lowest income were the least likely to receive counselling. According to experts, these numbers have likely remained the same in the time since the survey was conducted.
Further research also suggests that experiencing discrimination and marginalisation negatively impacts mental and physical well-being. Thus, young trans people are more vulnerable to developing mental health conditions due to the discrimination they face. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that trans people are subject to a disproportionate amount of mental health challenges compared to cis people. Out of all the respondents of the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 22% reported having a poor mental health and 39% were experiencing ‘serious psychological distress’, almost eight times the rate of general the US population.
A study done by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and support organisation, found that over half of LGBTQ+ young people did not receive the mental health care they requested. The data also highlighted that trans LGBTQ+ youth were less likely to get the mental health care they needed compared to their cis counterpart. A third of all trans and non-binary youth stated that they feared receiving the mental health care they desired due to anxiety that a therapist or counsellor would not understand their gender identity or sexuality. This is very understandable, given the horrific practices of conversion therapy still being used to convert queer and trans youth to cis-heteronormativity.
Due to the comparatively higher incidence of poor mental health, as a consequence in no small part of persistent discrimination, young trans and gender diverse people should, in theory, be more likely to receive therapy. However, experts in the fields have reported that trans people still experience many barriers when accessing mental health services. Barriers can include healthcare professionals refusing to offer medical care, fears over the potential violence trans people could face, and a serious lack of knowledge around trans issues. Therefore, what is most needed are therapists and counsellors who are either trans themselves, or who are specialists in working with trans people in order to provide the best healthcare possible.
We spoke to one of GenderGP’s qualified counsellors about his own experience working with trans patients. He referred to his work method as ‘humanistic’, focusing on the client’s individual needs. His passion for communication is what continues to drive him, able to create a safe and comfortable environment for his clients to open up. Being a trans person himself, he stated that his own personal experiences and trauma are what fuel his passion and provide him with a more in-depth ‘understanding and empathy’ towards trans patients and their family members, in particular those under the age of 18. In addition, he also explained that working as a counsellor and accompanying each person in their gender journey helps him develop more emotionally as a healthcare professional.
A significant amount of our counselling team’s work is based around the patients’ emotions. Our counsellor expressed that he could relate extremely well to what clients say during the counselling sessions. The issues that are brought up are oftentimes close to his own experiences as a trans person. Many who experience it described gender dysphoria as a ‘feeling of hating ourselves physically, not feeling like we fit with our skin, to a point that there is a disconnection’, which resonated with him. He sees something in his patients that he also recognises in himself, understanding exactly what their experiences can feel like and thus, being more capable of providing adequate mental health care.
There is a global deficit of therapy provision specifically designed for and provided by trans people, especially for trans youth, where people can discuss topics such as questioning their gender identity, gender dysphoria, or wanting gender-affirming healthcare. Better provision would allow for more understanding and a safe space for trans and gender-diverse individuals who often feel ostracised by much of society. Improving young trans people’s overall mental well-being and providing safe environments for care is a huge reward, and one everyone should be working towards.
We understand that choosing a therapist or counsellor can be very difficult, however if you would like to explore the different kinds of therapies we offer at GenderGP, such as one-to-one counselling, and family therapy, please visit our directory for more information.