Log in

9 Aspects of Gender Affirming Care In Residential Treatment for Young Adults

Gender-affirming residential treatment for young adults refers to a supportive and inclusive environment that recognizes and validates the gender identity and expression of individuals. More specifically the World Health Organization Gender Affirming health Care as any single or combination of a number of social, psychological, behavioral or medical (including hormonal treatment or surgery) interventions designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity.  

Now that acknowledgement of gender exploration and laws are being enacted it is more important than ever for young adults ISO treatment (and families of teenagers) to understand questions to ask treatment providers and features of a treatment center that you want to look out for to ensure gender affirming treatment is happening and what the marketing materials say matches with the treatment or transitional programming.  

I expect this blog to be updated again and again. Given the ever changing landscape of treatment blogs that were written in 2019. In this listicle you will also see questions that a young adult might ask the program before enrolling to ensure that the treatment center  is practicing what they market and is a updated dive into the 2018 blog an interview with Beck Gee-Cohen defining the questions to ask adolescent and young adult treatment programs claiming to support  LGBTQ+ youth, teens, and young adults.

9 aspects of gender-affirming residential treatment for young adults

  1. Safe and inclusive spaces: Gender-affirming residential treatment provides a safe and supportive environment where young adults can freely express their gender identity without fear of discrimination, harassment, or judgment.  This does mean not just in the treatment program, but before enrolling — do the admissions forms include multiple genders? Is the broader community and ask if the city/town/area are safe.
  1. Respect for self-identified gender: Staff and peers respect and honor the self-identified gender of each individual, regardless of their assigned sex at birth, allowing young adults to fully embrace and explore their gender identity. How does the treatment program hire staff and train staff on an ongoing basis? 
  1. Comprehensive medical and mental health care: Access to competent and affirming medical and mental health care services, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT), gender-affirming surgeries, and psychological support, is an integral part of gender-affirming residential treatment. What does it mean if the state that the provider is in does not allow medical treatment? What if a client is receiving medical treatment BEFORE enrolling in a state that does not allow for medical care?
  1. Individualized treatment plans: Each young adult receives a personalized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs, goals, and aspirations related to their gender identity, including transition-related care, mental health support, and social integration. Although all treatment programs should have an individualized treatment plan, that does not mean there is a quality treatment plan. How does the Clinical Team create the plan, who is on the treatment team, how is the program assessing and measuring that the patient is moving forward towards discharging from the provider? If the plan needs to be changed or updated, who is involved and how does that happen?  
  1. Peer support and community: Creating opportunities for young adults to connect with and build relationships with peers who share similar experiences fosters a sense of community and reduces feelings of isolation. Peer support groups, group therapy, and social activities are essential components of gender-affirming residential treatment. How does this work if the program is in a state that is non-affirming? How is the program building bridges into the community?
  1. Education and empowerment: Providing comprehensive education about gender diversity, transgender rights, and resources empowers young adults to navigate their gender identity journey with confidence and make informed decisions about their healthcare and overall well-being. How does the program go beyond the Pride Parade? Meaning, if the program is in a state that does not protect trans-rights, how are they affirming their clients? 
  1. Family involvement: Recognizing the importance of family support, gender-affirming residential treatment involves families in the treatment process through counseling, education, and support. It aims to create a nurturing and understanding environment for the young adult, their parents, and other family members. Family systems work with Young Adults are different than with adolescents and how does the program manage family members who are not interested or educatedin a range of genders? 
  1. Cultural sensitivity: Gender-affirming residential treatment acknowledges and respects the diverse cultural backgrounds of young adults, incorporating cultural competence into the program to ensure all individuals feel valued and understood.    How is the staff trained around cultural sensitivity and diversity? Who is represented in the staff at the program? 
  1. Affirming environment and policies: The physical environment, policies, and practices of the residential treatment center are designed to reflect gender inclusivity. This includes gender-neutral restrooms, clothing options, name and pronoun usage, and policies that protect individuals from discrimination.  Does the program have enrollment forms that incorporate a variety of genders? How does the company or non-profit reveal to its employees that having an all-inclusive program is a value?

No matter what the expertise is of a treatment program or what a treatment-to-transition program is marketing, ongoing training is key.  When you layer on the ever changing landscape of gender and sexual identity there MUST be constant training, constant reflection of the services that are being provided to TRULY affirm the clients and support the family systems.

🙏 Thank you to Beck Gee-Cohen, MA LADC,  Fiona LaRosa-Waters, and Shayna Abraham, MA, CEP for contributing to this blog and being constant support as I attempt to learn.