A Survey of Specialist Youth Gender Diversity Services in Australia: A Whole‐of‐Family Approach
Westwater, J and Riley, E and Peterson, G, A Survey of Specialist Youth Gender Diversity Services in Australia: A Whole‐of‐Family Approach, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 40, (4) pp. 400-412. ISSN 0814-723X (2019) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2019 Australian Association of Family Therapy
The number of referrals for children and young people seeking to affirm their gender has risen exponentially in Australia and elsewhere. Whilst the individual mental health needs and treatment outcomes for this group have been the subject of recent research, considerably less emphasis has been placed on exploring and amalgamating individual family member experiences, particularly siblings, using circular questioning. Yet, gender diversity is known to affect everyone in the family, and research clearly demonstrates that youth who feel validated and supported by individual family members in their gender identities benefit from improved mental health and global outcomes. This study aims to explore current clinical practices, professional viewpoints, use of circular questioning, and whole‐of‐family involvement in specialist youth gender diversity services in Australia. Clinical leads and coordinators of publicly funded youth gender diversity services and individual specialists across Australia were invited to complete an online survey, exploring individual protocols and practices in relation to involving the family, and the rationale underpinning this. All six respondents agreed that adopting a systemic understanding, considering general family functioning, and seeking individual family member opinions, was critical. Nevertheless, all family members were infrequently seen, with resourcing issues and time constraints being cited as the main reasons. The value of adopting a systemic and whole‐of‐family line of enquiry was supported by all respondents. Whilst sibling viewpoints were considered valuable by most professionals, siblings were infrequently seen for a variety of reasons. Further attention could therefore be given to involving siblings during specialist assessments. The findings consistently highlighted the value of a systemic line of enquiry and whole‐of‐family approach for gender diversity services and specialists. However, no current assessment guidelines incorporate this as a recommendation. Therefore, future Australian guidelines could formalise a systemic approach.
gender diversity, specialist services, family, youth, survey, Australia