Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Issues and Workplace Considerations for the Transsexual Community: Bridging a Gap of Knowledge for Career Counselors and Mental Heath Care Providers

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Issues and Workplace Considerations for the Transsexual Community: Bridging a Gap of Knowledge for Career Counselors and Mental Heath Care Providers

Article excerpt

The field of career counseling has addressed the needs of several minority groups; however, the transsexual community has consistently been overlooked. Transsexual individuals may face many personal and professional obstacles due to the complex psychological aspects and expensive medical procedures inherent in transitioning (the complex and multidimensional process of changing genders). Maintaining employment and a steady income are vital when engaging in this costly transition experience. In this article, the authors bridge a gap of knowledge for career counselors and mental health care providers by identifying possible workplace issues and propose 4 primary competency components. A critique of the current literature, recommendations for counselors, and directions for future research are discussed.

As the field of career counseling has expanded, relevant information has become more accessible to minority and underrepresented populations (Bieschke, Eberz, Bard, & Croteau, 1998; Croteau, 1996; Leong & Hardin, 2002; Thompson, 2005 ). Unfortunately, one group that has consistently received little attention in the career literature is the transgender/transsexual community (Chung, 2003). This community has been referred to in articles discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues; however, limited information is provided regarding unique career issues or workplace concerns for those who identify as the "T." Although career issues are a common concern for transgender/transsexual individuals seeking psychotherapy (Rachlin, 2002), no known published empirical research exists to date that specifically addresses how counselors (both career and mental health) can assist with career and workplace concerns.

In this article, we attempt to bridge a gap of knowledge for career counselors and mental health care providers who may work with transgender/transsexual clients. First, we provide definitions of transgender/ transsexual terminology and general information so that counselors may gain basic knowledge to communicate effectively. Second, we discuss common career and workplace issues faced by the transsexual community. Given the scarcity of empirical data on this subject, theoretical and anecdotal information was our primary source. Third, we provide a critique of the current psychological literature to highlight its strengths and weaknesses. Fourth, we provide recommendations for career counselors and mental health care workers and discuss future research. Three caveats should be discussed, however, before we proceed.

First, we recognize the lack of empirical research exploring the utility of specific career interventions or assessments for the transgender/transsexual community. Much like the situation when Pope (1995) did his early work on career interventions for lesbians and gay men, the current state of the career literature focused on the transgender/transsexual community suggests that the use of anecdotal, clinical, and theoretical sources is common and necessary for future empirical research to proceed. We also believe that such evidence is invaluable during the early stages of career development research, and we hope the review in this article will provide that foundation for future empirical research with the transgender/transsexual community.

The second caveat regards the topic of what seems to be a perception that a dichotomy exists between the theory and the practice of personal counseling and career counseling (Haverkamp & Moore, 1993). As do Betz and Corning (1990), we believe that all counselors must view their clients and their clients' concerns as a "constellation" of factors, including work, career, love, and friendships. We see more similarities than differences between career counseling and personal counseling. We believe that both personal and career issues are presented to a counselor regardless of whether she or he identifies as a career counselor or a mental health care counselor. …

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