The furthest thing from my mind when I was finally ready to transition was that I would need a therapist. I had had plenty of time to think things through – decades, actually. There was not one ounce of uncertainty on my part. But, protocol is protocol and I wasn’t about to do anything that might jeopardize getting my top surgery. So I began the hunt for a therapist.
All told, my search was a short and relatively easy one. The plastic surgeon that I’d chosen to perform my top surgery had given me two possible options in the St. Louis area. I took the information and went back to my friend, Google, to see what if anything I could find on the two choices. I started with the psychologist. He seemed capable enough and more than qualified. I made a few mental notes and moved on to the second recommendation. It was for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I wasn’t entirely clear if this designation would be better for what I needed than a psychologist or not, but I figured there was a reason her name was being passed around so I moved forward with my search. I found nothing but 5-star client reviews and her work history spoke volumes about her path to providing gender identity care. The doctor I’d just researched listed gender identity as one of his services – but it kind of felt like that was exactly what it was – just one of his services. I didn’t bother to even call him. Everything “on paper” connected to the social worker made my decision unquestionably simple.
I sat and stared at the screen on my phone for some time while I worked up the nerve to make the call. I’m not sure how long I sat there, but I knew there would be no surgery without the “magical letter” so I listened to the call connect on the other end, then ring, then voicemail. Damn. Now what? It took to prepare myself for a voice on the other end even though I had no idea what to expect. I left what I can only describe as what felt like a ridiculously incoherent message briefly describing who I was, what I needed, and my cell number. I wasn’t sure any of it made sense, but all I could do was wait. I went back to work.
I didn’t have to wait long at all for a return call. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of something at work that prevented me from taking the call so all I could do is listen to the phone buzz and buzz, then wait for the final buzz indicating the caller had left a voicemail. Yes! A voicemail. As soon as I had a free minute I checked my phone. The missed call and voicemail were not from the same number I’d called. I listened to find that is was indeed the therapist and she’d left an alternative number for call back. Her voicemail was pleasant enough and I returned her missed call immediately – before I could talk myself out of it.
We spoke for 15-20 minutes. She asked a few questions about me and what it was I needed. She shared a little about herself and her practice. She explained that she believed she would be able to write my letter in 2 or 3 sessions. This was a huge relief, because ever since I’d been told that I would have to meet with a therapist I’d been picturing a long, drawn out process and months of lying on a couch talking about things that I had no desire to discuss with someone who sent knowing glances and wrote down my every word. I’m not sure what I thought those things would be – I just knew that I didn’t want to talk about them. Television does not paint a pretty picture of therapy.
After she’d explained how this would work, she asked if I wanted to schedule a meeting – the first session. I don’t know if she sensed my hesitation or not, but she made it clear that I would be under no obligation to continue with a second session if I didn’t want to. That made it easier to say yes. That, and the fact that she’d already said she thought this would be a relatively short process. It was a huge bonus that she seemed personable enough and I felt that as much as I wasn’t looking forward to even one session, it would probably not be too painful. At least that was my hope. We scheduled our first session and she emailed me some forms and information and strongly suggested I visit her website to read more so I would be better prepared to meet. I followed all of her instructions and all of the information was clear and made good sense, but nothing that she’d written truly readied me to walk through the door of her office.