The World Health Organization (WHO) perceives gender as a social construct that is viewed as a spectrum with people identifying and expressing varying degrees of both femininity and masculinity. The gender norms in America have evolved, as gender is no longer considered a simple binary term. A transgender person, for example, is someone whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth, or gender assignment. LGBTQ (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning) is an acronym that is colloquially used to describe an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Young people that identify as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender may also consider themselves members of the LGBTQ community. Though the federal government has taken steps (e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to actively protect LGBTQ community members against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/ or sexual orientation, the deeply engrained stigma lingers. Transgender teenagers are often subject to hate crimes (e.g., physical and/ or emotional abuse, threats, public humiliation, etc.), sexual orientation discrimination, and/ or rejection from loved ones. The Human Rights Campaign asserts that LGBTQ youth are more likely to face bullying, interpersonal violence, and have a 120% higher risk of homelessness than those that identify as cisgender, heterosexual teens. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) “the foundational ethical principle of ‘self-determination’ requires that children and adolescents be supported in their right to explore, define and articulate their own identity.” Further, that all “children and adolescents are required to have access to behavioral health treatments that will promote their health and welfare.” As such, there are a variety of options available to transgender youth.
It is not uncommon for transgender youth and other members of the LGBTQ community to seek counseling for gender dysphoria. The Mayo Clinic explains that “gender dysphoria is a feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.” Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, however the disconnect that occurs between a teenager’s assigned sex at birth and one’s internal sense of self can result in undue pain and distress. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes gender dysphoria, solely for the purpose of providing a diagnostic term to enable access to care. Hence, a person that obtains a diagnosis of gender dysphoria will have access to insurance coverage that accommodates mental health counseling, including gender-affirming care.
It is common practice for clinicians to integrate LGBTQ affirmative therapy into any treatment plan when working with transgender youth. LGBT affirmative therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to “validate and advocate for the needs of sexual and gender minority clients.” Every teenager is different and not all types of counseling will resonate with each adolescent. Mental health clinicians that have received training and are familiar with the nuanced needs of transgender youth are uniquely equipped to provide ample, tailored support and should be readily available.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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