Your gender identity is not a mental illness. However, if you are a transgender or gender nonconforming person, the way society treats you can have an impact on your mental health. Part of your self-care may be working through any stress and trauma with a gender-affirming therapist.
This might make you wonder: how do I find that person?
For psychotherapist Winley K, working with people who share a common identity can make a big difference. Winley, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, doesn’t use pronouns, doesn’t mean white, cisgender Male therapists will not support black, genderqueer and masculine people.
“But what I’m going to say is that because of my experiences of oppression and discrimination with people who are different from me, it was important for me to heal in a space that felt safe,” Winley said.
Here are some steps you can take to find a transgender-friendly therapist.
Use online resources
Winley is the founder of WaterYourFire Collective and a contract therapist for queer people of color. It’s good to create a profile of someone you think will best understand your experience, Winley says. Then search for exactly what you want.
“I often hear people say, ‘I want a black therapist, or maybe I want a trans (uline) therapist.’ But can I be specific?” Winley said. “My response to them was: Why not?”
You can find what you’re looking for with a quick search. But there are many directories for the LGBTQ+ community. Some ways to help you find a trans-friendly psychologist, counselor, social worker, or other mental health professional include:
- gender identity
- sexual orientation
- LGBTQ+ affirmative
- type of problem or treatment
What if you found a trans therapist in your state instead of your town?ask telemedicine or virtual visit. This expands your connection with mental health providers. It gives you the opportunity to talk to someone from the comfort of your own home.
You can schedule telehealth or virtual visits psychologist Not licensed in your state. But this is something you need to ask your provider.
Get referrals from the LGBTQ+ community
A general directory is a good start. But they are not perfect. That’s why many LGBTQ+ people end up finding mental health professionals “by word of mouth,” says Dr. Christy Olezeski, a Yale medical psychologist who works with transgender and transgender people.
In graduate school, Winley turned to a professor who identified himself as LGBTQ+ for help. She came back with the name of a therapist who checked all of Winley’s boxes. “This has been the best treatment experience I’ve had so far.”
You probably already know asking your gay or transgender friends who they see. But here are some other ways to take advantage of your local network:
- Search Facebook for “queer communication” and your city.
- Go to a transgender party.
- Join an LGBTQ+ support group in person or online.
You can learn a lot about therapists from their online bios. But you can only find so much information through directories or specialized websites. What else can you do? “I’ll call them,” Olezeski said.
Chances are you can chat with a therapist for 15 minutes for free. You can ask the following questions:
- How long have you worked with transgender people?
- Have you received special training to work with gender diverse communities?
- What is your treatment method?
- I see X, Y, Z on your profile. Can you tell me more about what this means?
- What is your identity?
There is controversy over how much personal information therapists should reveal. But some mental health professionals think it might be a good thing to share some of their background information. “If I ask a client these intrusive questions, I should be willing to tell them something about me,” Winley said.
List therapists who you think may be suitable for you. Consult with everyone. If they don’t look right to you, go to the next one. Keep searching until you click on someone.
“I know it can be a very intimidating, exhausting and frustrating experience,” Winley said. “But I think the support is there.”
Not every therapist is right for you. And you can leave anytime. But keep in mind that therapy can be hard work. Even with someone who knows and affirms transgender issues, you may feel uncomfortable.
“There’s a difference between someone who’s not the right fit and someone who challenges you in a way you’re not ready to explore,” Winley said.
What about cost?
By law, most health care providers must cover mental health services in the same way as other health care. Call your insurance provider to learn more about your specific plan. Here are some questions to ask:
- Who are the therapists in your network?
- What are your copays and deductibles?
- Is there a deadline for out-of-pocket fees?
- Is there a limit to the number of visits?
- Is prior authorization required?
What if I don’t have the option to use health insurance? “Do free consultations,” Winley said. “Have a conversation and see if a psychologist has a way to work with you.”
If you want to see a therapist you can’t afford, ask if they:
- Prorated fee
- Provide therapy scholarships
- Find out about any mental health fund you can apply for
How to get help now
There are safe spaces for immediate support. Connect with a crisis counselor day or night using the following resources: