Transgender Assessments

I work with many clients who suffer from gender dysphoria. During any given week, I host several conversations regarding clients’ gender expression as related to their sense of self and well-being. There are several means, depending on the situation, to bolster client efforts in synchronizing their gender expression (cues visible to others) with their gender identity (their self-experienced gender).

Some people seek an official assessment for potential hormone referral therapy. These assessments include an intake of the client’s life history including child & adolescent development; transition goals; coping resources; and any co-occurring problems (such as depression or trauma histories). During later stages in the process, I may invite clients to bring family members into the meetings for increased social support (this part is required earlier for adolescents).

Other clients, such as gender non-conforming people, benefit from deconstructing any unhelpful gender associations & roles they internalized from developmental and social contexts. Then, therapeutic techniques such as assertiveness training help privilege their own unique identity and facilitate choices & empowerment.

Internal Family Systems

I enjoyed a webinar with Richard Schwartz, developer of the Internal Family Systems therapy model. The IFS model grew out of other family therapy models that examined “roles” each family member inherits in reaction to each other & the family’s overall needs. The IFS model examines various “parts”, or roles, within a person, often developed within confusing family dynamics. For example, an individual is likely to develop various “protector” parts and other parts that are “exiles”–parts that express impulsive or other unwelcome behavior. In the IFS model, healing occurs as each part is attended to with curiosity and awareness. When the parts are understood, they relax and trust a well-informed leader–the “self.”

Schwartz’s IFS website: Center for Self Leadership

Greater Good Videos

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley curates videos, articles, and podcasts about happiness. The short videos are presented by prominent researchers, therapists, business leaders, and educators. They include a wide range of topics such as “How to check in with Yourself” and “The Biology of Mindfulness and Compassion.” There are hundreds of happiness videos here. The information is not a substitute for therapy–a process that can investigate specific traumas and the complexity of a person’s unique life. However, the videos can help people remember their wisdom and encourage action.

Innovative Research

If you have a history of suicidal thoughts or know someone who died by suicide, you may want to look into a new research project called Our Data Helps by Qntfy. You can donate social media data (from online activity) and/or fitness & sensory data (from wearable devices) to help researchers learn more about why suicides happen and how they can be prevented. The project will analyse the language, physical data, and media patterns of people who sign up to help the project.

Technology-Assisted Treatment

Many psychology researchers, including the Veterans Administration, are studying the effects of mental health applications. While indiscriminate screen time is widely known to reduce peoples’ focus, some research indicates that consistent, intentional use of some mental health apps tends to boost self-awareness; effectiveness; and happiness. The Veterans Administration is specifically studying the app PTSD Coach, which I would like to use with a client. Please let me know if you would like to participate in that process! Here are some applications I already find useful with many of my clients:

  • Narrative Therapy Questions: helps the participant conduct a deep self-interview about their preferred life direction and related obstacles
  • Calm: 100+ guided meditations to choose from. The app will track the dates and lengths of of your meditations
  • Relax: helps practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is good for nervous system regulation and panic-attack prevention
  • Mood Tracker: charts symptom severity/remissions/patterns based on pre-programmed OR customized data schemes

Sexuality Education

I attended two great conferences related to the intersection of sexuality and mental health:

  • the LGBT-Affirmative Therapist Guild annual conference
  • 5th Annual Sexuality conference at KU Med

Both conferences included great panel presentations: Race Relations Under the Rainbow; Identity Development and the Therapeutic Alliance; Eating Disorders and Sexuality; and Being HIV+ in Today’s World.

Daring Greatly

I am currently re-reading the wonderful book Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. If I only had a single therapeutic tool or paradigm, Dr. Brown’s work may be the one. Dr. Brown examines yucky problems like scarcity, shame, and defense mechanisms with finesse and humor. For those of you who have not seen her first viral video, here it is: vulnerability .

Lessons from Improv

I am currently taking an introduction to Improvisation Comedy class. Improv is a fun way to practice…

  • awareness: it’s hard to keep people’s attention if your own attention is wandering
  • listening: respond to a group story rather than one’s own preoccupations
  • acceptance: in improv, you working as a team–and other people have some weird ideas
  • healthy risk-taking (AKA healthy vulnerability): it gets the dopamine going; it builds competence and resilience