The Gender Exploratory Therapy Association (GETA) exists because we see a great need arising from the current narrow framing of Gender and Gender Identity in the field of mental health and in the culture more broadly. We believe that:
Individuals who are exploring gender identity or struggling with their biological sex should have access to therapists who will provide thoughtful care and tend to legitimate mental health concerns, without pushing an ideological or political agenda.
We are pleased that the emerging cultural conversation opens the door for individuals to discuss and explore their sense of identity in ways that might have been discouraged or disallowed in the past. We believe that identity exploration is normal and necessary, especially for young people. At the same time, we see that certain restrictive norms have emerged which limit free and healthy exploration, making it harder for both clients and therapists to work meaningfully together on questions of gender identity.
It has become extremely difficult for clients to find mental health professionals who will facilitate identity exploration while also helping them confront important psychological issues that may be contributing to their distress, including their concerns about gender. Instead, by using a one-size-fits all approach many therapists misunderstand identity “affirmation” and inadvertently push ideological or political agendas onto their gender-questioning clients. Sadly, this can happen on “both sides” of the gender issue:
Some therapists operate on underlying assumptions that gender identity distress is always a sign that a client is trans, and that a client’s current understanding of their gender identity will remain permanently fixed. Such assumptions may lead the therapists to neglect the work of psychological exploration, and instead, act as a facilitator for acquiring hormonal and surgical interventions (which come with a heavy medical burden and potentially negative consequences).
Other therapists operate on the underlying assumption that identifying as trans is categorically wrong. Such therapists may challenge a client’s stated gender identity using political arguments or ideological frameworks, imposing their own agenda of getting the client to renounce or change their gender identity.
Between these two extremes lies an approach that treats identity development as a complex, gradual process that can be influenced by a variety of factors and mental health issues.
It has become difficult for therapists who take a depth or exploratory orientation towards gender identity to find spaces which encourage open dialogue about these issues. The fear of being labelled “transphobic” has, in many circles, shut down conversation and prevented genuine exchange, learning, and training.
Our goal, therefore, is to develop a network of “Gender Exploratory” therapists: mental health professionals who practice ethical and developmentally appropriate therapy with clients who are experiencing distress regarding gender or biological sex. We provide a place for such therapists to network, dialogue, and learn from one another. And we provide resources, information, and therapy referrals for clients and their families.
GETA Membership Statement
This Association is open to practitioners and trainees in the psychotherapy professions who are in agreement with the values of the Association as outlined below.
- We believe people who are experiencing distress regarding gender or biological sex should have access to ethical, developmentally appropriate psychotherapy.
- We reject treatments that set out to change sexual orientation or gender identity. Practices that use coercive techniques have no place in health care.
- We respect client autonomy and do not impose our own beliefs, values, opinions, ideology, religion, or goals on clients. Conflating exploration of gender identity with “conversion therapy” betrays a misunderstanding of the basic principles of psychotherapy.
- We believe that psychological approaches should be the first-line treatment for all cases of gender dysphoria. Psychological interventions avoid the risks of social and medical transition, and support client autonomy by facilitating deeper self-understanding.
- Given the lack of long-term, peer-reviewed, longitudinal evidence and the risk of regret, we believe that medical interventions for gender dysphoria in children and teens are experimental and should be avoided if possible.
- We believe gender dysphoria arises in a context as we hold a developmental understanding of this condition. We believe that the assumption that gender is an innate quality of the individual is unhelpful as it ignores the multiple factors that may be contributing to the individual’s distress. Overlooking these issues can deprive individuals of comprehensive psychological care.
- We recognize that behavior, feelings, and beliefs, including those related to gender identity, are influenced by factors of which we may not be fully conscious. The exploration of unconscious factors is not inherently pathologizing. Rather, its purpose is to expand and deepen self-understanding.
- Gender Exploratory Therapy provides support to clients who wish to deepen their own self-understanding with therapists who apply established, evidence-based, ethical principles of therapy to individuals experiencing gender-related distress.
- We believe that adult clients retain the right to bodily autonomy and the role of Gender Exploratory Therapy is to create a space where the client can deepen their understanding of gender dysphoria in the broader scope of their lives.
- Beginning medical interventions does not preclude an individual from the benefits of gender exploratory therapy, which can offer meaningful support and exploration during the complex and dynamic process of transition.
- We believe the “Affirmative” model of therapy for clients who are gender questioning or experiencing gender dysphoria is inadequate. Gender-affirmative therapies can fail to consider the following:
- Gender and sexuality are complex, develop over time, and are influenced by many factors (biological, psychological, social, etc.).
- The significant medical, psychological, and social risks and unknowns associated with transition (both social and medical/surgical) require honest examination.
- Personal identity is not static. Identity exploration is a normal part of adolescent and young adult development.
- It is extremely difficult to determine if a gender identity experienced during childhood and adolescence will remain fixed into adulthood. Because identity remains in flux during adolescence, clinicians should be very circumspect about recommending therapies that result in irreversible changes,
- Young people may not have the capacity to fully comprehend the impact of gender transition and the treatments they desire.
- Same-sex attracted youth are often gender nonconforming and may experience distress as they come to terms with their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth may need help and support to accept themselves as they are.
- The aim of this network is to create a supportive forum for members to network, learn, communicate, and collaborate on these issues. The network will also function as a resource for those who are gender questioning or experiencing gender dysphoria and their families to learn and to find support from thoughtful therapists.
- We reserve the right to remove any GETA member from the directory who is not practicing according to these principles.