Continuing with its mission to provide access to mental health care for Marylanders with limited resources, the Pro Bono Counseling Project (PBCP) recently provided an opportunity for volunteer clinicians to participate in a day-long training with presenter Tavi Hawn, LCSW-C, to address the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming clients seeking care. Practitioners received continuing education credits for their participation.

The training, entitled At the Intersection: Trauma Informed Care for Gender Diverse Clients, encouraged participants to not only examine their own areas of privilege and seek to develop empathy and compassion for gender diverse clients, but also provided many opportunities to support clinicians in navigating care with role play scenarios and mock provider-client interactions. These hands-on activities generated powerful discussions between participants and helped clinicians begin to feel more comfortable navigating gender identity as one aspect of a client’s experience.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this workshop was the integration of racism and sexism into the discussion. Focusing on the intersections of gender identity, race, and internalized sexism and homophobia created a nuanced discussion that allowed clinicians to explore the myriad ways gender diverse clients can experience compounded oppression and trauma. By focusing on intersectional aspects of oppression and trauma, the presenter reframed the conversation to discuss the ways in which gender diverse clients can experience resilience and empowerment, thriving within the framework of their lives.

Many of the clinicians who attended noted that this workshop helped expose them to new language and ways of discussing gender, particularly for non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. In addition, several attendees indicated the emphasis on racial bias and discrimination as a systemic force of oppression was a valuable lens through which to understand the experiences of trans people of color.

As part of PBCB’s commitment to connecting people with mental health services, it’s important that clinicians who volunteer their time are provided the opportunity to receive training to meet the needs of clients they receive through PBCP. Providing courses such as At the Intersection is one of the many ways that PBCP seeks to simultaneously support trans and gender diverse clients in Maryland as well as the clinicians who work with them.