In 2017, when I began seeking help for Gender Dysphoria, I felt scared and overwhelmed with the amount of information everywhere. The first psychologist I spoke with seemed to be building rapport. As it turns out, he felt wholly unprepared to diagnose and treat me. Fortunately, instead of dismissing me entirely, he helped me find someone who could actually help.
Psychologists all learn differently, but they kind of all follow the same script initially. Knowing what they are looking for, can help you get the help you need by cutting through so much red tape. It also allows you to build a real working relationship with your therapist and gives you the foundation for growth.
Common Script For Building Rapport
Regardless of which guide your personal psychologist/mental health provider follows, they usually begin with some historical lines of questioning. The following comes from Counselling and Mental Health Care of Transgender Adults and Loved Ones by Dr. Walter Bockting, Dr. Gail Knudson, and Dr. Joshua Mira Goldberg. A particular favorite of mine, because it allowed me to see behind the curtain, and understand what my psychologist wanted to know. Without it, I would probably have overthought everything.
During the initial evaluation, psychologists attempt to build therapeutic rapport, figure out mutual goals, and build a snapshot of your health status and history. This process can take anywhere from one to three hour-long sessions, and you can help it along by preparing your thoughts ahead.
Your psychologist should initially try to establish trust by asking you easy questions like your pronouns. Prepare to let them know how you prefer to be addressed, whether they may contact you at work, leave a message, and how you present in public. By having those answers, you can save some time initially. That also allows your psychologist to see that you thought this through.
Next, prepare to discuss your health history and any concerns you may have. By thoroughly preparing your answers here, you can streamline a lot of time, helping your psychologist get to a point where they can see a holistic picture of your health needs.
Finally, your psychologist will want to know about your gender concerns. This portion might help you bring up your goals as well, since it fits nicely in.
Sample Questions Used to Build Rapport
The following questions might help build your answers. You may skip any sections or questions that just don’t apply to you. Your psychologist may circle back to them, but you’ll already know they’re coming.
Beginning Psychological Therapy
Hopefully, this helps you prepare to meet your psychologist. Building rapport goes a long way towards getting the help you need and reaching your personal goals. Once you complete your initial evaluation, your psychologist will begin evaluating your capacity to make care decisions.
- Barbara, Angela M., et al. Asking the Right Questions, 2 Talking with Clients about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Mental Health, Counselling and Addiction Settings. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health = Centre de toxicomanie et de santé mentale, 2007. Open WorldCat, http://www.deslibris.ca/ID/427458.
- Bockting, Walter O., et al. “Counseling and Mental Health Care for Transgender Adults and Loved Ones.” International Journal of Transgenderism, vol. 9, no. 3–4, Sept. 2006, pp. 35–82. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1300/J485v09n03_03.
- Standards of Care – WPATH World Professional Association for Transgender Health. https://www.wpath.org/publications/soc. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.