Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

American Psychological Association releases trans-supportive guidelines

The American Psychological Association recently adopted guidelines encouraging psychologists working with transgender and gender nonconforming people to be accepting, supportive, and understanding “without making assumptions about their clients’ gender identities or gender expressions,” the organization announced in a recent news release.

The “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People” were adopted by an APA council in early August. They follow a 2009 survey that found under 30 percent of psychologist and graduate student respondents knew about issues faced by transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Lore M. Dickey. Photo: The Jim Collins Foundation.

Lore M. Dickey. Photo: The Jim Collins Foundation.

“These guidelines are especially timely in light of the media coverage of recent completed suicides by transgender teens and murders across the country of transgender people, especially people of color. In contrast, we have also seen coverage of high-profile transitions, including Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black,” the APA’s Lore M. Dickey said in the August 6 news release. “While these guidelines are aimed at psychologists who provide care, conduct research or engage in education or training focused on transgender and gender nonconforming people, we believe they will also be useful to any psychologist or educator.”

The document includes 16 guidelines meant to help professionals better understand stigma, discrimination, barriers to care, and other challenges.

Among other guidelines, one explains the concept of gender going beyond male and female, and how people can “experience a range of gender identities that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth,” the APA news release says.

The developmental needs of youth who are questioning their gender are also included.

Tiffany Woods, coordinator of the TransVision program at the Fremont-based Tri-City Health Center, said in an email to the Bay Area Reporter, “The adoption of much needed and necessary guidelines by the APA should help in removing the prevalent stigma and trauma that transgender and gender nonconforming people have historically experienced when seeking gender affirming mental/behavioral health treatment and services. Untrained and judgmental psychologists have traditionally been a minefield of gatekeepers and barriers for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals and communities in seeking lifesaving counseling, guidance, and access to medically necessary procedures.”

Jennifer Orthwein, senior counsel for the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center’s Detention Project, stated, “The long-awaited [guidelines] will serve as a much-needed guide to practitioners, most of whom have had very little education or training on the subject of gender, gender identity and/or gender expression. Currently, graduate programs in psychology are not required to include this subject matter in their curriculums, which has resulted in less than a third of psychologists being familiar with this population’s experiences or best practices when treatment is necessary. … Hopefully, these new guidelines will be the impetus for accreditation standards that require graduate programs to include this subject-matter in their programs.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 12, 2015 @ 2:55 pm PST
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