While differences between therapist and client are inevitable, manageable, and often productive, the relationship between the cisgender therapist and trans client brings its own particular complexities. Within the politically-, socially-, and clinically-charged territory of the exciting new gender frontier, the cisgender therapist can experience inadequacy, confusion, frustration, disgust, and other uncomfortable feelings in working with gender-diverse clients. If left unexamined, the therapist’s discomfort could ultimately cheat the client of the therapist’s full use of self and skills. This workshop will seek to establish a safe, open climate for dialogue about the many challenges faced by non-trans clinicians in working with this population. A didactic presentation will be followed by case conferencing, in which participants will be encouraged to bring their most difficult moments to the light of day, as we brainstorm together how to recognize, work through, and utilize our feelings of discomfort in the service of our clients.
Julie Mencher LICSW is a therapist, clinical consultant, and educator in Northampton MA who specializes in working with the LGBTQ community. Her organizational consulting work focuses on helping pre-K through college educational institutions and health care organizations in several countries to work toward trans inclusion and trans-competency. Formerly, Julie was the Transgender Specialist at Smith College (2001-2004), adjunct professor at Smith College School for Social Work, and Visiting Scholar at the Stone Center and Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at Wellesley College. She has published book chapters and articles in clinical journals and the media on LGBTQ topics, and is the co-author of the chapter, “Two Middle-Aged, White, Jewish, Cisgender Lesbians Sitting Around Talking About Trans Sex,” in Sex, Sexualities, and Trans Identities (2019, forthcoming from Jessica Kingsley Publishing). Her general psychotherapy and clinical consultation practice includes a focus on working with LGBT clients, particularly with the parents of gender-nonconforming and trans youth.