Mental Health Professionals

5 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi everyone,

There was recently, as part of a discussion in another Forum, some talk about mental health professionals. I thought it was worth putting this out as a separate Forum post, to give people an opportunity to talk about their own experiences working with mental health professionals and what they think is (or isn't) important in looking for one. The information I'm discussing below is specific to the U.S., so there will likely be differences in other countries (it also may at time be specific to New York - so my apologies if I get parochial at all).

It's important to know that in most places you don't need any formal training or licensing to call yourself a "therapist."  So if you want to make sure you are going to someone who is properly trained and licensed (and licensing does provide some assurance that the person is responsible for following ethical guidelines, and that they will be properly trained and insured), you should also check the person's credentials (which shouldn't be hidden from view!). Therapy in the U.S. can be done by psychiatrists (who are medically trained), psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors and (other thoughts?). These are all trained, licensed professions (a social worker for example would have an LMSW and possibly LCSW license). To be licensed you have to complete a certain level of approved education, pass a licensing exam and meet other licensing requirements. Typically you also, initially, have to work under another person's supervision and have proper insurance. When it comes to cost, social workers and mental health counselors are typically going to cost less than psychiatrists and psychologists.

Any of these can be properly trained to work with transgender issues - it's important to look to see if they have that training and/or have worked successfully with clients who are transgender.

Another consideration is that, depending on what kind of medical transitioning you are thinking about, you'll probably need letters from mental health professionals to do that. It's a good idea to check your insurance (or medicaid, etc.) and/or the doctors you're thinking about working with to see what exactly they'll require (doctors usually just need whatever the insurance company requires). In my case, to get HRT I needed a therapy letter, and one from the mental health counselor I was seeing was sufficient. For my GCS I got a letter from my therapist (a mental health counselor) and had to get at least one from a Ph.D. level professional (a psychiatrist or psychologist). I was referred to a psychologist who met with me for one (90 minute) session and provided the letter (since I had one from my therapist already, he didn't require a lengthy process to provide the 2nd).

Personally I've worked with 2 therapists in the time since I came out and transitioned, the first was a social worker, the second was a mental health counselor (I had to stop going to the first because he stopped taking my insurance). Both for fully qualified to work with transgender issues. One way of confirming that kind of thing also is to see if there are any mental health organizations in your area that make referrals - both of my therapists were affiliated with the Institute for Human Identity in NYC.

So other thoughts on this topic?

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Excellent topic, Chrissy. I'll add my 2c:

I have spent the last 3 years working with a wonderful therapist, David. I was his first trans client and he readily admitted that it was all new to him, although with about 40 years experience he was of course aware of trans people. In many ways we learned together as I explored, studied, and conducted my introspection, trying to sort out my emotions and unwind my notions. He was constantly open and supportive but also a good backstop. For example, he once suggested I bring in my clothing collection for kind of a show 'n tell. That was so much fun, to be able to openly share with him what I liked, what I was buying, and to talk about the clothes. I've had several therapists over the years and it should be pointed out that they are not all equal by any means. It's hard to nail down what I'd look for but the most important thing is to feel a special connection.

I also met several times with a local gender therapist who also has about 40 years experience. She's very well known in the area and immediately confirmed that I am trans. She was very helpful but I will say that I didn't connect with her nearly as well as David which is unusual for me as I tend to feel a closer bond with women.

Now that I'm living in Seattle I have a new therapist, Shannon, who is as wonderful as David but is also a real gender therapist, as they are also trans (non-gender I think). AFAB they want others to use they/their pronouns. Shannon is simply terrific and was recommended to me by a couple of friends in Seattle who are therapists and asked around to help me. Shannon's name kept on coming up.

So maybe that's a moral to the story. Be sure to use what resources you have to get references, meet once or twice to gain a sense of how you will enjoy working together. And then, jump in with both feet!

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Emma,

Thanks for sharing that! Yes, relationship is vital to any therapy working. I went to one therapist where we clearly didn't click, I stopped after 3 sessions. You need to feel comfortable sharing everything with the person.

And you made a really great point about experience - having specific experience working with trans clients isn't necessary, a good therapist can work with almost any population, they'll learn from you and through research.

Chrissy 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Dear Chrissy and Emma,

Have been in therapy for various reasons off and on in my life, (not gender related) both face to face and through the telephone.  

Prefer face to face, but if I can't find a good therapist locally, which often happens in small towns, then I resort to therapy on the telephone, which I find just as good.

Your friend,

Monica

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'd like to chime in also, mental health is a deeply personal process, and not every therapist is right for you.  I've worked with a few in my lifetime, and it took a few tries before my parents found the right one (I was a minor, I had no choices) that I could actually work with and get benefit from.  I see so many people who stick with a therapist that isn't right for them, aren't really benefitting, and seem astonished when I suggest that they try a different one to find a better fit.  It's such a subjective discipline, and that affects the quality of care even between two equally licensed and experienced therapists.  

And I also agree with Monica, flexibility is important, but I also prefer the face to face, so the therapist has a chance to read body language and facial expressions.  But if that's not an option, phone therapy can be an extremely helpful tool.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now