Gender dysphoria is a complex and multi-faceted issue that can be caused by many factors. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a therapist who understands this. Many therapists will simply "affirm" your child and set them on the path to social and medical transition.
It is essential to find a therapist who will take a more cautious, psychologically-informed approach to your child. They must take the time to truly understand your child and explore the roots of their dysphoria. And they must be willing to consider healthier, less-invasive alternatives for dealing with your child's dysphoria before resorting to social and/or medical transitioning.
To that end, we have developed a set of guidelines to help you find a therapist you can trust.
guidelines for finding a trustworthy therapist
1. DO NOT take them to any therapist who claims to specialize in 'gender identity,' 'gender dysphoria' or purports to help those who are 'questioning their gender identity'. These therapists are likely to simply affirm your child and encourage them to persist in their belief without ever questioning why they may feel this way. In some cases, such therapists have recommended social and medical transition after as little as one visit. We have even heard reports of therapists recommending this over the phone without ever having met the child.
2. Choose an experienced therapist (minimum 10 years) who has a large population of adolescent and young adult patients, especially young girls. They are most likely to be noticing that a lot of their patients are suddenly deciding they are trans and may already be growing suspicious.
Be proactive. Help them to learn about this dangerous trend by bringing them helpful, authoritative articles, such as
“Gender Dysphoria is Not One Thing” written by Drs. Bailey and Blanchard, two of the world's most respected researchers in gender dysphoria,
“Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Young Adults”, Dr. Lisa Littman’s groundbreaking new study, and
"Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents stirs debate" posted in MedScape.
3. Before you allow your child to spend any time alone with a therapist, prescreen them by asking them open-ended questions to learn their approach towards gender dysphoric kids. Really listen to their answers. This should give you a very good idea of their approach.
If they act insulted that you would dare to question them, leave.
If they refuse to tell you their approach, leave.
If they tell you they will 'affirm' your child, or ‘let the child be their guide’, leave.
4. Be extremely wary of any therapist who intentionally excludes the parents from the child's therapy and insists on only seeing the child alone. They may be encouraging your child behind your back. (We have even heard reports of this - and it was at a major children's hospital.)
Find a therapist who is willing to involve the parents - at times - as part of the therapy. Gender dysphoria can have roots in the family dynamic, so it is important to find a therapist who is willing to take this into consideration.
We also encourage you to check out Dr. Lisa Marchiano's blog, thejungsoul.com, where she offers informed, compassionate advice for parents and gender-confused individuals alike. It is well worth taking the time to read her posts
At the very least, please know you are not alone.