Ask a Gender Therapist: How Do I Become a Gender Therapist?
In this week’s edition of the Ask a Gender Therapist Video Q&A Series I answer the question:
How Do I Become a Gender Therapist?
Hey, welcome to “Ask a Gender Therapist.” This is a video series where I answer your transgender questions from the point of view of a gender therapist. I’m your host Dara Hoffman-Fox, and I’m a licensed professional counselor in Colorado.
I’m actually talking to you from outside of my office since it’s so nice today in Colorado, which is different than three days ago where it snowed heavily. But glad to be out here today!
So this week’s question is one that I get fairly frequently, so I don’t have a specific person that I’m going to be mentioning who asked me this specific question. It has to do with:
“How did you become a gender therapist?”
This is something that is asked of me by people who are currently mental health professionals, or maybe they are in school to become a mental health professional. But I get other people who ask me that too, just out of curiosity. So I thought that would be a good one to address today.
Here’s the thing, I’m only going to answer this from my perspective. There are probably lots of different ways that people have become gender therapists and this is really just going to be my own way. So if you know of any others, or if you, yourself are a gender therapist, and you want to leave comments or anything like that about how you went on that path, that would be great.
Basically, here’s the thing to understand about being a gender therapist: it is, at least at this point, something that somebody can call themselves at any point they want to. There’s no certain certification process or credentialing process for someone to have to go through to be able to claim that they are in fact a gender therapist.
One way I learned about that early on was while I was going to graduate school. I had a therapist who I was seeing and she specialized in LGBT counseling and I asked her, “How did you become a specialist in working with the LGBT population, because I want to do that?” And she said, “Basically you do it for a while and you go to different workshops and trainings. Once you feel comfortable that you can put that on your website, or claim that you are a specialist, then you do it.”
I was a little surprised because it seems that anybody can claim that they are a specialist in something! And there certainly are some aspects of counseling that you do have to have credentials in or certifications to claim that you are able to do that. But not when it comes to what we are talking about today, which is being a gender therapist.
In terms of being a gender therapist and having some sort of proof that you can offer to people that “This is something I am highly skilled in,” then that is going to be up to you to gather up that collateral for yourself to prove to others.
One of the other things you can do is to join certain organizations and be able to say “I am a member of this; I am a member of that.” For instance, here in Colorado Springs, where I work there is a Pride Center and they have a GLBT Chamber of Commerce. I have been a member of that for several years now.
Another organization is WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and that’s an organization that you can join and say you are a member of.
One more I will mention is through the American Counseling Association. They have a specific association and its acronym is ALGBTIC, but it’s Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling. That’s an organization you can join and let people know you are a member of those different organizations.
That’s not all you can do though to be able to claim that you are an expert in something.
For me I worked for about five years with transgender clients before I finally felt that it was appropriate for me to claim I was a gender therapist. So you have to get to your point where you feel like you have enough experience, you have enough knowledge, you have enough resources that you can say this is something you specialize in, and that’s different for everybody. Again, for me, that took about five years before I was ready for that.
Interestingly enough, the reason I finally did feel comfortable enough calling myself a gender therapist is that the local news here in Colorado Springs last year interviewed me for a story to do with Coy Mathis. They called me a “gender therapist” in the article and I figured “It’s time I feel comfortable calling myself a gender therapist.”
The other thing too is there are a lot of different phrases that you can use, so why would I choose “gender therapist” as what I would call myself? That just came from doing research on the internet. I tried to figure out “What is it that people think to themselves before they type it into Google when they want to find a therapist to help them with their transition?” The most popular response was “gender therapist.”
Even though that can be such a wide umbrella that you are covering, “gender therapist” can be for transgender persons who are transitioning. It can also be for anyone who wants to talk about issues regarding gender; so there is gender fluidity, androgyny, non-gender binary, etc. That is something you can also cover in gender therapy.
“Gender therapist” is a very specific phrase that I use and other people use to call themselves; a counselor who happens to work with transgender clients. We feel like we do it to such an extent that we do feel like it is one of our specialties, one of our expertise, and the phrase “gender therapist” is something really mainly for marketing purposes and to be found on the internet it works best.
Let’s not forget that there is schooling involved to be able to be a therapist at all. I have an undergraduate degree that I got from the University of Kentucky in Communication. At the time I had tried to be a Psychology major, but that did not go so well. When I was eventually ready to go do graduate school, actually ten years after finishing my undergraduate degree, I went to the University of Phoenix. They aren’t particular about what your Bachelor’s Degree is in, so I got my Master’s in Community Counseling from the University of Phoenix.
You can actually, in Colorado, start a private practice as soon as you graduate from graduate school—which isn’t the same in all states by the way. You definitely have to check on that.
However, it is also a good idea to go ahead and become licensed as a counselor or as a therapist. In Colorado that requires 2,000 hours in which you have to work under a supervisor to be able to then say that you do have enough experience to get licensed. And you have to go through those tests you have to take and things like that. So again, that’s just for Colorado, but you would need to look into requirements in your particular state to see what it is that you need to do to be able to say you are a counselor.
So, I think that covers it for today! If you have any questions you would like to have answered, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more information about the work that I do at my blog, which is Conversations-with-a-gender-therapist.com.
And just to give you a teaser, a little sneak preview…in about a month I am going to be launching a new website. It’s going to have my blog in it, but much more other information as well. So that website will still work for you at this point, but in about a month or so get ready for something new to be sprung upon you.
Thanks so much for watching and again, I really hope to hear from you with your questions. Take care! Bye!