I was paid an unusual compliment recently. During our final session a client asked if I’d heard about the trans cold. I hadn’t. They explained that it’s not at all uncommon for trans people to go to counselling and have the counsellor assume that ‘All their problems are because they are trans.’ No listening, no open mind, nothing except an assumption that their whole identity is problematic and therefore the ’cause’ of all things negative.
This failure of counsellors to really listen was echoed at a recent two day training session I did with Gendered Intelligence in Manchester. A group of counsellors and psychotherapists met with trainers from the organisation to look at improving services for trans clients. Some of us identified as trans, some didn’t. We listened to each other and explored our own understandings of gender and identity. It was hard work and at times emotionally challenging but some of the best training I’ve attended. And although we did learn a lot about gender theory and difficulties in accessing gender identity clinics the most important thing in the end was listening and being prepared to alter, adapt or enlarge our existing frameworks. Sometimes even ditch them altogether.
A good counsellor listens. They listen and learn. They are humble enough to check things out and be corrected. They assume that you know far more about yourself than they do. And they keep on learning.
I’ve had good training experiences with the following organisations.
The websites above also contain links to other support and advice organisations.