How to Find Trans-Affirming Mental Health Care

African American transgender woman in video call of online psychotherapy.

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When it comes to finding health care for our personal needs, the better a practitioner understands the challenges people like us face, and the more comfortable we're bound to feel with them. While some therapists are highly qualified to help patients through any issues they might experience in life, you'll likely want a practitioner with whom you don't have to explain basic facets of your identity when you are moving through major life changes or issues.

Finding a therapist can feel like an arduous task, but it doesn't have to be one. There are many systems to help make the process easier than you might expect! If you're looking for trans-affirming mental health care, or you've offered to help someone in their search, read on to learn how to find it.

Why Gender Affirming Mental Health Care Matters

Why is it important that a transgender person has access to trans-affirming mental health care? Trans people face a plethora of hardships and disadvantages that cisgender people do not: they are more likely to become unhoused, to be bullied, to be sexually assaulted, and to be discriminated against in health care.

Trans people exist in a system designed by cis people, which often disregards their needs, and in which they are victims of violence perpetuated by cis people. That alone makes the need for a safe experience with mental health care so important. Additionally, affirming medical care increases a trans person's happiness and the likelihood of survival through life.

Therapy is an intimate and vulnerable experience where a patient divulges their innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, and worries. It needs to be a space in which a person feels safe. The more affirmed and safe a person feels while in this position, the more easily they can share personal information.

How to Find Trans-Affirming Mental Health Care

Knowing that trans people face additional challenges in life that cis people do not and can benefit long-term from affirming care, it only makes sense that trans-affirming mental health care would be an aligned need. Whether the practitioner is a cis person specializing in helping trans people, or is a trans person themselves, the in-depth knowledge of gender-related issues will create a safer experience for a trans patient.

Step 1: Know Your Rights

When looking for trans-affirming mental health care, your first step is to know your rights. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund has a guidebook that details the rights of trans people to health care, specifically in relation to Covid-19. Some rights for medical care, whether mental health or physical health, that a trans patient and their loved ones should be aware of include the following:

  • You have the right to be referred to by your correct pronouns.
  • You have the right to use the bathroom that aligns with your gender.
  • You can't rightfully be refused treatment because you're trans.
  • You have the right to report discrimination if you experience it.

Trans-affirming health care is regularly under attack by conservative states and areas of the country. This is particularly true of affirming care for children and adolescents. If you live in a location where trans-affirming health care is under attack, it may be challenging to find the proper care. Know that advocacy organizations stop most discriminatory laws before they can take effect and that your rights exist on a broader scale regardless. However, this may not make it easier for you to find care in the short term.

The American Psychological Association has a guide for psychological practice with trans patients. It contains critical information about the importance of proper and affirming care. This means that all mental health care professionals have access to learning how to best serve transgender people.

Step 2: Know What to Search For

Now that you know you have the right to trans-affirming mental health care, you might be wondering how exactly to go about finding it. There are several ways.

Check with your insurance provider

Search tools on your insurance provider's website will usually have an option of LGBTQ+-proficient providers. The therapists might not exclusively state that they work with trans people, but knowing they are at least knowledgeable about trans people should offer more comfort in reaching out to them. You can also begin by simply calling your insurance provider and asking them to search for you.

Do some research online

You can also use search engines outside of your insurance website, whether or not you have insurance. For example, Advekit aims to pair trans patients with appropriate providers.

Melissa Mondesir, PR and marketing manager of Advekit, tells Verywell Mind that "when someone takes our detailed quiz on the site, one of the preferences taken into account is gender identity. They can choose if they would like a therapist that is either male, female, or non-binary, and they will only be matched with their preference."

If that process isn't successful for you or you aren't happy with your results, Mondesir says that "if they can't find exactly what they are looking for once their three matches are given, Advekit support will have someone help find a match right for them." This is a reassuring process that can make it feel success-oriented.

Seek a local LGBTQ center

Another valuable place to find trans-affirming mental health care is through your local LGBTQ center. Commonly, larger cities have more resources to offer than smaller towns, but you might be surprised at what yours has to offer. If they don't practice pairing patients with therapists or have mental health workers on staff, they still might conduct support groups, such as one for trans people, that meet regularly.

Having that sense of community could be hugely beneficial if you are in a difficult place emotionally, especially if it takes some time to find the right therapist for you. A group to share with could be a great bridge between individual therapy and community.

Look into transgender-specific therapy services

Lastly, there are progressively more therapists who specialize in trans health issues and trans-affirming mental health care. Some, such as Transgender Affirming Therapy, serve only trans patients.

Other resources to help you find trans-affirming therapy include the National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) and Therapy for Queer People of Color (QPOC).

Health Insurance Considerations

Outside of the basic rights for health care mentioned above, you have additional rights in relation to health insurance. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, these are some important ones:

  • Trans-related health care cannot be excluded from your insurance plan.
  • You cannot be charged higher premiums or refused enrollment due to being trans.
  • Insurance companies can't place discriminatory limits on health care.
  • You can't be denied coverage because an insurance company thinks a treatment isn't associated with your gender.

To learn more about what your specific insurance plan covers, including Medicare, you can review the NCTE Health Guide Guide for Transgender People.

Cost and Payment Issues

The amount you have to pay for mental health care is dependent on your insurance plan if you have one. If you don't, you still should be able to find care that serves you. Some websites offer discounted therapy sessions, such as open path psychotherapy collective, which charges $30-60 per session.

They have search specialties of both transgender and nonbinary specialists and therapists who work with gender exploration, meaning you don't have to scroll through anyone who isn't a potential fit.

If you find a therapist you'd like to work with but who is out of your budget, it can still be worth reaching out to them. Many therapists have a sliding scale system for low-income patients. Others might work with nonprofits that supplement session costs so that low-income people can afford them.

A Word From Verywell

All people have the right to a health care experience that is free of discrimination, and that moves them forward on their mental wellness journey. Trans people, like all others, can benefit greatly from therapists who know how to work with them and the issues they face.

Now that you know your rights, and you have some resources to start, you can be on your way to finding the right therapist for you.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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