Therapists need to use their clients’ pronouns. Respect your client’s gender identity by using “they” or “she” or “he” or “zhe” or the pronoun(s) of their clients' choice. Too often, I hear about therapists not using their clients’ pronouns because it is “too hard” or “takes too much time” or is “too much trouble.”
If a client is BRAVE enough to come out as using a different pronoun or pronouns that signify a gender different than was assigned to them/her/him at birth, therapists need to listen and respect their client’s gender identity by using the pronoun with which the client identifies.
Yes, therapists make mistakes sometimes – I know I do - but it is important to work hard to use the correct pronoun. In fact, it is vital to your work as a therapist and your relationship with your client.
Please, as a therapist who sees kids, old and young, and adults, old and young, please, please use your client’s pronoun or pronouns.
I get that it might be hard – I mean, grad school was hard, but we survived, right?
Licensure was hard, too – maybe you are licensed like I am or in the middle of the process – but wow, becoming a clinician is one of the hardest things I have ever done- but I did it, and you did it, or you are doing it.
And you will do this too. At least, I hope that you will.
DO IT for me, the therapist who supports clients of other therapists (who attend workshops or panels where I’m speaking) that it is okay for clients to ask for their own therapists to respect the way clients want to be labeled. It breaks my heart to see someone shocked that a therapist might take their identity seriously by using their pronoun(s).
DO IT for the client who is giddy with joy that you remembered the pronoun with which they identify. Remember your client’s story and be that person who sees them and who can meet them right where they are.
In short, please remember your clients’ pronoun(s).
Learn to not assume gender without asking.
One way to do this is to give clients the option to come out to you with the pronoun that best fits them on your intake paperwork.
Give them more options than male or female. I encourage you to leave a blank after the term gender so that your clients can fill in the pronoun that fits them best.
Perhaps, give them options, such as
And, if you take insurance, please let clients know that you will need to know the gender that is on their insurance card for the purposes of billing their insurance.
Ask for how the client identifies their own gender(s) AND what the gender is on their insurance card.
And, if this is hard for you, Dear Colleague, please reach out for support. You are worth it! I offer consultation, training, and supervision on working with transgender clients.
I want to support you so that you can support your client(s) more fully.
Preserve or deepen your therapeutic relationship with your transgender client(s), by contacting me, Dr. Abi Weissman (PSY 27497) for supportive consultation or training services.
We will start where you are at and will work together to answer your questions and help you feel comfortable continuing to better your work with your client. Please contact me at (619) 403-5578 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how consultation, training, or supervision with Dr. Abi Weissman can best meet your needs.
As always, this blog post hopes to provide general information but does not give specific information for any particular person. This post does not imply a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Abi Weissman or Dr. Sarah Jacobs-Paul, Dr. Weissman's psychology assistant.