Being a counselor is hard. On a day-to-day basis, you listen to countless tales of trauma, fighting, jealousy, and even rage. Understanding the troubles of cisgender (individuals who identify with the sex that is marked on their birth certificate) people can be difficult and extremely complex, but beginning to understand the frustration of a transgender individual can be even more difficult. Although there are many counselors who can feel empathy toward their transgender clients, not all counselors have had the experience of being transgender individuals. This lack of experience in the counseling field can lead to transgender clients receiving less-than-acceptable support from the experts that they work with. As many counseling services have shifted to online or telehealth sessions, the chances are even higher that you may work with a transgender individual in a session—even if they do not live in your area. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to counseling services to aid them with their mental health. In order to keep clients safe and healthy, telehealth has become the primary way for clients to receive counseling. Although it may be intimidating to approach a telehealth counseling session with a transgender individual, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Sympathize: Understanding the transgender experience can be difficult, and at times, confusing. It is important to ask open-ended questions (like you would with any client) because this allows the client to share their thoughts and feelings without feeling pressured. By displaying sympathy for your client, you will help them feel more comfortable with you, which means you will create a more trusting relationship. As a counselor, it is crucial to have sympathy for those you work with. Sympathy allows you to gently give advice or suggestions while validating the individual's experiences.
- Let them share their experiences with you. Even though you may not have the same experience of being transgender, it is likely that you have faced large challenges in your life that may apply to this individual. Finding common ground is a great way to transition into conversations about heavier topics. It is important to get to know your client because this familiarity will help you better understand how to help them. Letting your client share their experiences with you (and vice versa) is a crucial part of telehealth counseling, whether you are meeting with a cisgender or transgender client.
Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that even if your client is a transgender individual, they are still a person. They deserve to be heard and understood. They deserve to receive guidance and advice, just like any of your regular clients. Show transgender clients sympathy and let them share their experiences with you. As you work to build a trusting relationship through your sessions, telehealth counseling will become a valuable experience for both you and your transgender client.
For more information, contact a telehealth transgender counseling center.