Gender dysphoria and transgendered states: Robert Withers

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Date(s) - 27/01/2018
10:00 am - 12:30 pm

Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ


Gender dysphoria and transgendered states:

A view from the consulting room

Robert Withers

In this talk Bob Withers will be exploring analytical psychotherapy’s contribution to understanding and working therapeutically with gender dysphoria (GD) and transgendered states.

Over-medicalisation of Gender Dysphoria

He will argue that this contribution can get closed down by accusations of transphobia and the claim that thinking about trans-phenomena psychologically amounts to conversion therapy. As a result, medicalisation can become the default therapy for GD, rather than a last resort. This is particularly worrying in the context of the exponentially increasing number of young people identifying as trans (see, for example, figures from the The Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock). Young people’s sense of identity is far less fixed than older people’s. By the time a gender dysphoric young person decides s/he is not really transgendered, there is a real danger they will have already undergone irreversible surgical and hormonal treatment. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that there is no objective way of telling in advance who will and who will not benefit from medical intervention.

The psychological dimension of Gender Dysphoria

In our culture, that still stigmatises mental illness, there is a reluctance to acknowledge and explore the psychological dimension in GD. Bob will be illustrating his talk with three contrasting cases: two from his own practice and one from Donald Winnicott’s, arguing that Winnicott was able to carry out effective analytic work partly because it was conducted at a time before trans-medicalisation became so ubiquitous.

Robert Withers is a member of the Society of Analytical Psychology. He is co-founder of The Rock Clinic in Brighton, where he works as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. He has taught on a number of psychotherapy, counselling and university post-graduate trainings, including currently the SAP and the Inter-university College Graz. His 2015 paper The Seventh Penis, which described some of the difficulties of working psychotherapeutically with people who identify as transmedicalisation (Withers-2015-Journal_of_Analytical_Psychology), jointly won the Michael Fordham prize. He also compiled, edited and contributed to the book Controversies in Analytical Psychology.

Chair: Alessandra Cavalli
Two hour CPD credit

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