Training Mental Health Professionals in Gender-Affirming Care: A Survey of Experienced Clinicians

Transgend Health. 2022 Feb 14;7(1):68-77. doi: 10.1089/trgh.2020.0123. eCollection 2022 Feb.


Purpose: Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) individuals have difficulty accessing mental health professionals (MHPs) prepared to deliver culturally informed care. This study aims to (1) explore the training experiences that had been available to MHPs who are actively providing care to TGNC individuals, (2) define which opportunities had been most beneficial in TGNC career development, and (3) determine the reasons MHPs sought training when it was absent in graduate curricula.

Methods: A voluntary cross-sectional electronic survey was distributed through professional Listservs and public referral lists to interdisciplinary MHPs, who self-identified as having experience in providing care to TGNC individuals.

Results: Two hundred eighty-one (n=281) counselors, marriage/family therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, or psychiatric nurse practitioners responded to the survey. The two most common motivators for seeking training in gender-affirming care were filling a need in the community (68.8%) and having met a TGNC person in a clinical setting, who requested care (67.2%). Only 20.0% of our sample were exposed to relevant content in a graduate course, and 25.2% during clinical training. The most commonly available training opportunities were professional conferences (76.4%) and mentorship (41.2%). Respondents were most likely to recommend that others in their field be trained through structured clinical experience.

Conclusion: This study identifies key strategies for graduate and post-graduate educators to better prepare MHPs to serve TGNC individuals. Wider availability of structured clinical experiences, didactic content delivered during graduate school or at professional conferences, and direct clinical mentorship will increase access to welcome and prepared mental health care providers for the TGNC population.

Keywords: education; gender dysphoria; graduate; mental health; training; transgender.