June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1968 Stonewall riots that started in New York City in response to repeated police raids on gay bars. But Walden University’s School of Counseling and Social Service faculty member Dr. Stacee Reicherzer wants lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to feel pride in their identity year-round.
As a counselor, teacher, and scholar, she realizes this can be challenging in a world where even the counseling field traditionally viewed LGBT people as having a medical anomaly or mental health disorder. However, she’s optimistic in the ability to facilitate change. Pride Month has both professional and personal significance for Dr. Reicherzer: She’s contributed to developing the American Counseling Association’s competencies for counseling with transgender clients. She’s published research related to the transgender experience, including a recent article in the International Journal of Transgenderism. She’s also a transsexual woman.
“Stonewall made a radical change in how people were treated publicly. I love not having to deny who I am and my personal history,” Dr. Reicherzer says.
That strength-based perspective drives the competencies to guide counselors. Dr. Reicherzer explains, “When transgender people approach counselors, they’re not trying to cure themselves. They simply want to come to a place where a person of professional authority can support them and advocate for their rights. The competencies provide a stance and understanding of how counselors can respond to those needs to create a society that accepts people in their gender identity and as they want to be seen.”
Dr. Reicherzer offers reassurance to counselors who worry they won’t know what to say or do when working with transgender clients. She says, “I liken it to traveling to a foreign country. Before I went to China, it seemed so different and exotic. But when you start meeting people, it becomes less exotic. They live in a different culture and the norms may be different, but they’re not really that different. It’s very much the same thing with any client population.”
With transgender clients, she says, “Counselors may require additional training in diagnostic language, but they already have the skills they need. The knowledge and the key points of the competencies follow the coursework we teach counseling students.”
Dr. Reicherzer advises counselors—or anyone seeking to better understand the LGBT experience—to attend professional training, read the popular literature, attend PrideFest, and follow news and events. She says, “Demystify and dismantle the things that keep us apart. We’re all just very human and have an investment in growing our humanity. We need to stop thinking about people as ‘Other’ and instead think about how we can ennoble each other’s journeys and make each other’s paths easier.”
Dr. Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival. More from Dr. Reicherzer can be found at:
Walden’s School of Counseling and Social Service offers a variety of degree programs that support counselors who work with the LGBT community and is one of the only schools that offer a CACREP-accredited MS in MentalHealth Counseling degree online.