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What Does a Gender Therapist Do?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A gender therapist counsels patients who have emotional, social, or psychological problems related to gender identity. These therapists frequently work with people who are considering or who are in the process of gender re-identification. Patients may use a gender therapist to talk through issues that are troubling them, to help determine the causes of and the solutions for mental health problems, such as depression, that are related to gender identity, or to get advice about how to talk to friends and loved ones about these issues. If a gender therapist is also a psychiatrist, he or she may also prescribe medications.

One of the main things a gender therapist does is to help a patient work through issues related to gender identity. Patients who identify as a member of the opposite gender commonly experience depression and anxiety. They may feel socially isolated and may have had negative experiences related to their gender identity. This type of therapist will often help a patient learn to manage the emotions in order to relieve stress and improve the patient's mood and outlook on life. If a patient is depressed or has other mental health issues, the therapist may also treat these disorders.

There are a number of levels of education that a therapist may have received. Social workers or people with some level of training in psychology often refer to themselves as therapists when they work as counselors. Psychologists and psychiatrists may also be called therapists. When a psychiatrist works in gender therapy, one part of the job may be prescribing medication to a patient. Common medications prescribed by gender therapists include antidepressants, mood enhancing drugs, and hormonal treatments to help a patient prepare for gender reassignment surgery.

Patients who have decided to pursue gender reassignment must undergo counseling. Before a patient can have such surgery, a gender therapist must diagnose them with gender identity disorder. After receiving this diagnosis, the therapist will discuss options with the patient and help him or her determine, over the course of at least two years, whether gender reassignment surgery is the best choice. One of the roles of this type of therapist working with one of these patients is to formally recommend the procedure on behalf of the patient. If the patient chooses to undergo the surgery, the therapist will continue to counsel the patient throughout the transition from one gender to another.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1000294 — On Aug 10, 2018

You no longer require a diagnosis to start hormone therapy, many places will allow you to go the 'informed consent' route.

The requirement to live as your preferred gender for X time before starting HRT is also no longer strictly required.

This article could use an update, since there is now less gatekeeping before someone is able to start HRT. Some places still have the old requirements, so it is possible to try to find a different person who can prescribe it without years of waiting.

By anon970524 — On Sep 19, 2014

Gender identity disorder is definitely a mental disorder. I am not being mean. I am transgendered myself and I really do think it is in the most basic terms. That doesn't mean I am retarded or mentally unsound; it just means that there is a discord between my mind and body about who I am on the inside vs. who I am on the outside.

Therapy can rectify this, as well as surgery and medication, so yes, I would definitely classify this as a mental disorder.

By discographer — On Apr 20, 2014

I don't agree with gender dissatisfaction being categorized as a mental disorder. But I do agree that psychological support is needed by individuals with gender dissatisfaction because it's a major cause of stress, anxiety and depression.

Everyone experiencing this type of dissatisfaction ought to see a therapist experienced in this area. One doesn't need to go into it planning for surgery or another transformation. A therapist can be seen just so that issues can be spoken about openly, which is a great way to relieve stress and worry. It's not a good idea to ignore the dissatisfaction. I think the earlier someone seeks the help of a professional, the better it will be.

By ddljohn — On Apr 19, 2014

@stoneMason-- Yes, gender therapists are vital to the gender reassignment process. However, a good doctor is always supportive yet objective when it comes to the issue.

Not every patient with gender identity disorder desires a sex change. So a therapist will not encourage the patient in either direction. The role of the therapist is to provide support for the patient and try to come up with effective treatments for the psychological issues the patient is facing. Treatment may or may not involve sex reassignment. It depends on the needs and preferences of the patient. But the therapist does have the role of informing the patient about this option and what this process would entail.

By stoneMason — On Apr 19, 2014

I didn't realize that therapists play such an important role in gender reassignment. What type of position do most gender therapists take on the issue?

For example, if a patient is diagnosed with gender identity disorder, does the therapist encourage gender reassignment as a treatment?

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