Improving care. Changing lives.

Child Mental Health Forum - Elizabeth Freidin Baumann, Ph.D. & Cynthia Telingator, M.D.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 10:00am to 11:15am
Baumann and Telingator

Gender Identity Development in Children and Adolescents

Elizabeth Freidin Baumann, Ph.D.
Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School

Cynthia Telingator, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School

Sociological and cultural changes deeply impact the clinical work with children and adolescents. The recent rapid sociopolitical changes have increased the visibility and discourse on gender and sexuality. Today's youth are giving voice to how they want and need to be seen. Training and education have lagged behind in assisting clinicians in gaining knowledge and comfort in discussing issues of gender and sexuality with children, adolescents, and families.

Across development, gender and sexuality evolve. One of the challenges for clinicians working with children and adolescents who are developing an understanding and a language to express their experience of their gender is creating a safe clinical space to explore this aspect of their identity. Creating a clinical space in which transgender and gender diverse youth do not feel invalidated or erased, nor propelled into a course of action by the clinician is essential. Learning how to move in parallel with the child/adolescent as they explore gender will allow them to do the work to help to integrate this aspect of identity. Like all aspects of identity this may evolve in a multitude of ways across the lifespan.

Expanding notions of gender identity are challenging both theory and training which have historically been embedded in a binary understanding of the experience of gender. Gender, like sexual orientation, is neither necessary experienced as binary or fixed across time. Gender can be experienced, expressed, and felt along a continuum and may change over time. This presentation will focus on clinical work with children and adolescents who are presenting with varied narratives with regard to gender. The presenters will use clinical vignettes to highlight important aspects of working with both gender diverse youth, and transgender youth.

Target Audience: Physicians (psychiatrists, pediatricians, child neurologists), psychologists, social workers, other mental health clinicians and researchers, and students and trainees.

Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Appreciate how cultural, social, psychological and developmental factors need to be considered in the presence of mental health disorder when assessing and treating youth with gender diverse presentations
  2. Understand the ethical considerations and how the lack of expert clinical consensus reflects the challenges faced by clinicians in addressing social and medical transition for gender dysphoric youth.
  3. Understand the challenges clinicians and care providers must consider in their own countertransference and lack of training when treating children and adolescents presenting with diverse gender expression and identities.


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