Your Therapy

The benefits of working with a therapist of a different gender

Starting therapy can be both exciting and scary, and it’s normal to have concerns about choosing the “right” therapist. Many people lean towards working with a therapist of the same gender, because it may feel safer and more comfortable. They may assume that they’ll share common experiences with a therapist of the same gender, and this will create a better fit. These factors are important, and whatever your reasons are for choosing a particular therapist, they’re totally valid. The most important consideration is feeling safe, and confident that you can establish a good working relationship. However, if you’re thinking about working with a therapist of a different gender, I want to tell you about some possible benefits. 

 

A different perspective 

The way we see and experience the world is partly influenced by our gender identity. Working with a therapist of a different gender can offer a different point of view and a different approach to a situation. That’s because alongside knowledge, theoretical frameworks and training, lived experience and aspects of identity can shape a therapists’ practice. For example, they may make observations or ask questions prompted by a particular way of seeing and experiencing life. A fresh take on things can be eye-opening. 

Being challenged to see things in a new way can lead to important new breakthroughs. This may be especially beneficial to clients who have only worked with therapists of a particular gender before. Being comfortable is important in therapy, but so is being challenged. 

 

Challenging gender stereotypes 

Sometimes we have preconceived notions about different genders and their behaviors. Working with a therapist of a different gender may help you dispel unhelpful beliefs and assumptions. Within therapy, we sometimes explore and question societal norms, gender roles, expectations, and identities. Doing this with someone of a different gender can offer different insights. Of course, an experience with one single person can’t be generalized to an entire gender identity, but it can create openness and curiosity, and dismantle images and ideas influenced by society or past experiences. This is often a helpful step to building trust and connections with people who we may be experiencing conflict with, or who we’re too afraid to get to know.  

 

Building trust 

Being in the presence of someone of a particular gender may be difficult due to past negative experiences. Sharing space and developing safety in a therapeutic setting with people of different genders can be a healing experience in and of itself. The client-therapist relationship can help people foster a healthy, supportive and positive relationship. It can also provide guidance on how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries, which may translate over to other relationships and settings.  

 

Ultimately, the gender of a therapist shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when choosing a therapist. Seek a therapist who is skilled, knowledgeable, empathetic, promotes safety, sets healthy boundaries and who you’re able to build rapport with—regardless of their gender or other social characteristics. It’s okay if you prefer to work with a therapist of the same gender, these points are just things to consider when searching. Trust yourself and remember that this is your personal journey, and your therapy! 

 

Oscar C. is a registered social worker, psychotherapist specializing in Individual therapy for children and adults at our clinic. Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling therapy practice in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about talk therapy or other mental health issues. We offer mental health therapy and more. 

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