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Gender Transition Counseling: What To Expect

Highlights

  • Gender transition means starting to live as the gender someone identifies with.
  • Gender transition counseling helps trans persons go through all stages of the transition process. 
  • Regular meetings with a gender therapist can be an emotional anchor for someone going through a lengthy and challenging transition process. 
  • Local and national organizations working on trans health and rights are the best source of referrals for gender therapy. 
  • Find out more about in our series on gender identity. 

Gender transition happens when a trans person decides to live their life as the gender they identify with. Everyone transitions differently — some people go for full physical and legal affirmation, while others introduce small changes. Working with a counselor can help a person go through transition with less stress and more confidence.

What’s Gender Transition Counseling?

Gender transition counseling is psychological counseling or therapy for persons who are considering transitioning, are going through the process, or have already completed gender transition. 

In many countries, people who opt for gender-affirming medical treatment or surgery need to go through an assessment. The aim of these sessions is not to question someone’s identity but to confirm that someone has gender incongruence (when the gender assigned to someone at birth does not match their actual gender) or gender dysphoria. In some countries, an official diagnosis is required to access healthcare services related to gender transition. 

One of the goals of gender transition counseling is to make sure the person who wishes to undergo certain procedures understands the pros and cons and makes informed choices. A counselor should also screen for other mental health conditions that may require treatment (for example, depression or anxiety, which are common in this community).

Beyond assessment, some trans people may benefit from psychotherapy sessions. According to the World Professional Association for Gender Health, therapy can be useful if a trans person requests it but should not be a requirement to begin gender-affirming treatment. 

Male, female, transgender symbols

What Happens in Gender Transition Counseling Sessions?

Counseling for gender transition can last from a few weeks to several years, depending on what a trans person needs. A counselor can help them go through all the phases of the transition.

Those phases include:

The Decision Process

Changing your appearance or body parts to match your true gender is a big decision. Some procedures, such as genital surgery, are not fully reversible. 

Transgender people should know that they have choices. They can live their lives as their experienced gender without medical interventions or choose which procedures to undergo. For example, a trans woman may choose to undergo hormone therapy without surgery. The aim of counseling is to support the client in making the best decisions to help them live a fulfilled life. 

Transition Preparation

Once someone has made up their mind about gender transition, they still have a long road ahead. Counseling is useful for setting goals and making a transition plan. 

Some trans people have a general idea of how they want to express their gender. With the help of a counselor, these ideas become clear. This can reduce disappointment later in the process and prepare the client for potential challenges. 

If a trans person is in a relationship, their transition will have an impact on their partner (and their children, if they have any). According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the role of psychologists is to help clients navigate the changing relationship landscape. Couples’ or family counseling may prepare everyone involved for the lengthy transition process and its outcomes. 

During the Transition

Gender transition takes many forms, from legal name changes to plastic surgery. All these take time and require a trans person to navigate social and healthcare systems. To complicate things even more, people don’t transition in a void — they go to work, study, meet friends, and interact with family members. 

Meeting a counselor regularly may provide an emotional anchor. Someone undergoing gender transition has an opportunity to talk about their feelings, celebrate small steps on their way toward their goal, and manage emotions and mood changes resulting from outside pressures. 

If a person decides to have hormonal therapy, their feelings and thoughts may be affected, especially in the beginning, as the body adjusts to treatment. This is a sensitive time, and a counselor is there to prevent major crises and help the person keep going when the journey gets rough. 

Ongoing Support After the Transition

Life after transition comes with many changes and can be stressful. Working with a counselor in that early period can help someone ease into their new identity and manage external challenges. 

A good example of a common need for support in that period is transgender sexuality. It’s not uncommon for people to experience changes in their preferences following the transition. 

Sometimes it’s a completely new direction of romantic and erotic interests, for example, from men to women. Some trans persons notice their identity expanding, possibly to include trans and non-binary people as potential partners and lovers. All this may cause confusion and anxiety, and a trained counselor can provide support in making sense of it all. 

A lesbian couple

Finding a Gender Transition Therapist

Finding a good gender transition therapist isn’t always easy. Research indicates that many therapists and psychologists are not properly trained to assist people in gender transition. Others are guided by their own prejudices or limited understanding of gender. 

If you’re a trans person looking for psychotherapy to support you in the transition process, it’s best to check with a local or national organization working for trans rights and health. They usually have databases of experienced counselors who serve gender-diverse and trans communities. 

Some healthcare providers are also happy to offer referrals or a list of accredited counselors, so it may be worth your while to check with yours.

Learn More About Gender Identity With eDrusgtore.com

Whether you’re considering gender transition counseling for yourself, have a loved one who’s going through the process, or are curious to know more, eDrugstore has a library of expert blog articles addressing gender identity issues. 

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