Psychologists who work with transgender or gender nonconforming people should provide acceptance, support and understanding without making assumptions about gender identities or expressions, suggests a new set of guidelines.
The guidelines were adopted by the APA’s Council of Representatives at the annual convention in Toronto.
They were drafted by an APA task force in the wake of an APA survey in 2009 that found less than 30 percent of psychologists and graduate student respondents were familiar with the issues that transgender and gender nonconforming people face.
The panel’s report, which contained 16 guidelines, was considered timely in light of the media coverage of recent suicides by transgender teens and murders across the country of transgender people, especially people of color.
The guidelines aim to help psychologists better understand the lifespan development, stigma, discrimination and barriers to care faced by this population.
One guideline explains that the concept of gender goes beyond male and female and people may experience a range of gender identities that don’t align with their sex assigned at birth. Another explains gender identity and sexual orientation are “distinct but interrelated constructs.” Other guidelines address the developmental needs of gender-questioning youth and encourage psychologists to work with other providers to coordinate care of transgender and gender nonconforming clients.