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Jareena Silva

What is gender?

Gender is a social construct that is defined by the norms, behaviors, and roles attributed to people based on their sex. Gender is different from sex, which refers to the biological and physiological differences between females, males, and intersex people in terms of chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive organs. Gender identity, meanwhile, is the internal, individual experience of gender, which may or may not be in line with a person's sex at birth.

Is gender important when finding a therapist?

When searching for a therapist who is the right fit for you, there are numerous elements to consider, and gender is only one of them. The provider’s training, education, ethnicity, age, and specialities may be more important factors. Many people feel more comfortable with certain genders due to personal beliefs, prior experiences, or communication styles. 

Above all, it is essential to find a therapist who comprehends you. Does gender factor into communication and feeling understood for you? What is necessary for you to feel connected to another person? Does gender play a role in this?

Benefits of working with a therapist of a similar gender

When it comes to therapy, clients may prefer one gender over another due to life experiences. This could be related to sexual health, sexual orientation, past trauma or abuse, and much more. It is understandable that some may feel more comfortable discussing their identity and/or sexual orientation to one gender over another. 

For example, discussing topics like intimacy may be more comfortable with a provider that identifies as the same gender. Additionally, some individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse may be hesitant to communicate with someone of the same gender as their abuser. As an example, a female survivor of domestic violence in a heterosexual relationship may not be at ease speaking with a male therapist, due to it being potentially too difficult or triggering for them. This could potentially hinder the therapeutic process, and limit its success.

When it comes to therapy focused on gender identity or LGBTQIA+ issues, a person may find it beneficial to choose a therapist who shares similar experiences. This could be someone who identifies as non-binary or has transitioned. 

Although all therapists are trained to be aware of their persons' diverse identities and needs, they may not be aware of non-verbal cues that could make their clients feel uneasy. Someone with a similar identity to the client could be more sensitive to these cues, providing a more comfortable environment. 

In addition, a shared identity can also help build trust between the therapist and client more quickly than with two people of different identities, making it easier to establish a confidential relationship.

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About the Author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.