Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Koch, D. Shane
The transgender (TG) community has become more visible, both individually and collectively. The counseling professions, not unlike other professions, have lagged behind in their understanding of this population and their culture, an act that perpetuates stereotypes and supports unequal treatment. Among the many barriers faced by transgender individuals, barriers that block access to mental health and medical care are the most critical, as they can be life threatening (Shipherd, Green, & Abramovitz, 2010; Stotzer, Silverschanz & Wilson, 2013). Ignorance, bias, and discrimination are a common experience for those who are TG when trying to gain access to social services (Grant et al., 2010a). Accredited training programs that are responsible for training counseling professionals to work with all people, regardless of gender, vary in their extent and method of providing multicultural instruction, including information regarding TG individuals (Lewis, Bethea, & Hurley, 2009). A lack of uniform preparation for counselors may leave them unprepared to work with a population that is growing and becoming more likely to present for treatment. Supervisors are often counselors themselves with only two or more years of experience of training to establish their clinical licensure. Like counselors, they may have received minimal education with regard to transgender clients and culture during their masters training program. This study was an exploration of nine counselor supervisors’ experiences of providing supervision for counselors who worked with TG clients. Additionally, there was exploration into whether when supervising for counselors who are working with TG clients, what, if any changes occurred in the supervision relationship. Prominent themes emerged among the supervisors’ training experiences, their models of supervision and training, and their supervision alliances. An additional prominent theme among the supervisors interviewed was their trajectory of knowledge acquisition about transgender culture and needs. Most supervisors gained their knowledge through self-motivation, investigation, and self-direction. Likewise, the motivation that led the supervisors to seek more knowledge also compelled them to pass this on to others. Experiences from supervision preparation to supervision provision were explored, examined, and analyzed to identify common themes. Following the Grounded Theory (GT) methodology of Corbin and Strauss (2008), nine counseling supervisors, located throughout the United States, were interviewed. The population of interest for this study was unique and specific: counselor supervisors who supervised a counselor from a CORE or CACREP accredited program that was working with a TG client. The information from these interviews revealed a lack in formal training at both the Masters level for counselors and at the Doctoral level for supervisors. Through dialogue with these supervisors, a description of their experiences in their work and the relationships between themselves and their supervisees was exposed. Subsequent analysis revealed five themes: personal choice, multicultural skills to work with TG clients, lack of training, self-motivation to work with TG clients, and barriers to working with TG clients. Supervisors discussed their experiences of working with supervisees and their perception of necessary training to work with TG clients. Supervisees who lacked training struggled with such issues as language use and internalized hate. According to these participants’ training and education on the TG population was obtained in other venues such as conferences, on the job trainings, and from other certification organizations.
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