Transgender People and Therapy
The number of Britons seeking gender identity treatment has increased dramatically in all of the UK’s 14 gender identity clinics (GICs) in recent years, with a number of clinics experiencing increases of several hundred percent, according to a report in The Guardian this month.
"There are just over 15,000 people who are gender identity patients in the UK – roughly 12,700 adults and 2,700 adolescents or children. Trans activists suggest this is the tip of the iceberg and that there could be tens of thousands more considering medical intervention – hormones or surgery – a demand the NHS would certainly struggle to meet. At Charing Cross in London, the oldest and largest adult clinic, the number of referrals has almost quadrupled in 10 years, from 498 in 2006-07 to 1,892 in 2015-16," wrote Kate Lyons.
Suz West is a person-centred welldoing therapist who practices in Birmingham. As she writes on her profile: "I understand the difficulties such as coming out, gender and sexual orientation, cross cultural relationships, religious impact on sexuality, transitioning as well as other issues. I am passionate about working with and exploring identity issues this includes sexuality , gender and social class.
We asked her to write about therapy and trans clients:
Trans clients come into therapy at different stages; some may be thinking about transitioning, some may have already transitioned. Some clients may leave therapy and decide not to go through with transitioning but to live as the gender they identify with. Other clients may be "gender fluid" and identify with different genders at different times.
Trans people may prefer to be referred to by certain pronouns. If you know someone who is trans and are unsure, the simplest thing to do is ask them how they would like to be referred to. This is also helpful when trans people enter into therapy, they can let the therapist know which pronouns they would like to use. The language used may change and is often very current so it really is important for therapists to be familiar with these terms.
People may choose to use a different name: this may either be a gender neutral name or a name that the person identifies with the gender they feel they genuinely should be. Some clients in therapy may choose to first try this out in therapy before using it in different scenarios.
People may be worried about coming out as trans to friends and family. They may have suppressed or hidden this part of themselves for a long time. This may be a part of the journey, when someone feels therapy may be beneficial. Coming out as trans may feel scary at the time. Other people may react negatively or be shocked. However, people may also find themselves overcome by the amount of support they receive from friends and family. This may be a reflection on society becoming more accepting which also may have led to more trans people wishing to transition.
The conflict of being seen as one gender and experiencing that this is not the right gender can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Long waiting times for treatment may also lead to stress. Self-medicating may also become an issue as waiting lists grow.
Overall it is a good thing that more people feel able to come out and be who they really are. However the demand on services has led to an increase in people experiencing psychological difficulties and seeking out therapists who are familiar with gender identity issues.
You can seek a therapist with expertise in gender identity on the welldoing.org site