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Psychotherapy to manage gender dysphoria

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


“Watchful waiting” is a therapeutic approach for dealing with children experiencing gender dysphoria. Research has shown that without adults and others exerting a strong influence for the child to pursue gender reassignment, 80-85 per cent of gender dysphoria cases usually resolve before adulthood.

Psychologist Dr Andrew Sodergren of the Ruah Woods Psychological Services, from the Ruah Woods Institute, shared a range of information while speaking on ‘Responding to sexual confusion with clarity and charity’.

He commented that it’s difficult in today’s world to do watchful waiting because of external influences—peers, media etc., “that may be encouraging them to accept a cross gender identity and begin the process of social transitioning”.

More than 100 persons were present for the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission’s (AFLC) online session ‘Special Topics on Theology of the Body (ToB): Gender and Sexuality’ which featured a recorded presentation by Dr Sodergren. AFLC Episcopal Delegate Tricia Syms invited comments from attendees.

The AFLC has shown other topics from the Institute, whose website states it “supports adults, teachers, students, and parents as we seek to understand the truth about our innate dignity as image-bearers of God, male or female, called to love one another as God loves”.

Dr Sodergren’s talk included: treatment options for gender dysphoria, general principles for pastoral care, and pastoral care for accompanying individuals.

He said as with all persons, individuals experiencing gender dysphoria must be treated with respect, compassion, sensitivity.

Dr Sodergren asserted though that publicly simulating the opposite sex “is dishonest, deceptive and potentially scandalous; it’s not good for the individual nor is it good for other people.”

Elaborating on moral principles for treatment options for gender dysphoria, he said, “While medicine could be used to treat physical illness, it must never be used to poison or mutilate a healthy human body system.”

Dr Sodergren gave excerpts from a Doctrinal Note from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Any technological intervention that does not accord with the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in their body, ultimately does not help but rather harms the person” (USCCB #18).

Dr Sodergren said if there is a disorder of sexual development present, the least invasive approach possible should be used that resolves the disorder in line with the dominant natural sex expressed in the person’s anatomy.

“You won’t find this expressed in this way in a Church document at this point, but it is what I learned about disorders of sexual development,” he said.

In cases where there is no underlying medical condition, which is the large majority, treatments should be used which gives the person peace to accept their natural sexual identity revealed by the body.

Various forms of psychotherapy are available to treat the other psychological conditions e.g., anxiety, depression, self-image issues and behavioural problems, that often also occur with gender dysphoria. Exploratory therapy can be used. “We are not pushing the child one way or another,” Dr Sodergren said. Play therapy and family therapy are other approaches.

He mentioned a research article in which therapy was used to facilitate better peer relations between boys and their male peers; 10/11 grew out of the gender dysphoria.

“The basic premise of all these treatment models is the problem resides in the mind rather than in the body, that at the heart of gender dysphoria is a psychological disconnect…so we help the person get to the root of whatever is happening psychologically and we provide an opportunity for healing in the person’s interior life…” Dr Sodergren explained.

Psychotherapy is also available to parents. They go through a lot of suffering when their child is gender dysphoric or embrace a gender discordant identity. Therapy can also address marital and psychological issues that can be worsened by the child’s struggle.

Dr Sodergren said, “There is an emphasis here in strengthening the relationship between parent and child. Trying to enhance that bond, improve communication, decrease conflict, increase understanding, empathy.”

Syms announced within the next two months the AFLC is launching the EnCourage online apostolate in Trinidad and Tobago.

The AFLC is partnering with a US diocese to have monthly EnCourage virtual meetings to provide fellowship and prayer support.

EnCourage is dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions. She asked anyone interested in joining the apostolate to contact her: 299-1047.


Some resources: Desist, Detrans & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult by Maria Keffler; Always Erin by Erin Brewer about a female who experienced sexual abuse and had a hatred of being female and began identifying as male. She was helped to work through her struggles; Gender Dysphoria: A Therapeutic model for working with children, adolescents and young adults by Susan Evans and Marcus Evans.

Other resources:,

Courage (a ministry of the Church for persons with same-sex attraction who wish to live chaste lives according to their faith) and EnCourage (for family members of persons living a homosexual lifestyle or experiencing gender dysphoria) apostolate.