Transgender and Gender Affirmative Voice Therapy

What SLPs Should Know About Gender Affirmative Voice Therapy

While you may not think about it on a daily basis, your voice is an incredibly important part of your identity! After all, our voices are not only one of the main ways we communicate—they are also one of our primary forms of self-expression, helping us reveal ourselves and our innermost thoughts to the world.

For gender divisive people and the transgender community, however, a voice that doesn’t correspond with gender expression and identity can feel upsetting and invalidating. Fortunately, a growing awareness for transgender rights and a need for proper support within the medical field has led to a growing number of speech-language services for gender affirmative voice therapy.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about gender affirmative voice therapy, as well as some practical strategies to try at your facility!

What is the Significance of Transgender Voice Therapy?

Gender affirmative voice therapy, or voice modification therapy, is a type of communication training during which gender divisive patients are provided with tools and exercises to aid in voice modification—such as feminization or masculinization of the voice. The goal is to help a patient discover and develop their own authentic voice. Like many other types of therapy, sessions are designed on an individual basis for each client, often varying in length and frequency based on individual factors.

Transgender voice therapy dates back to the early 1980s, but has gotten much more attention in recent years due to increased public support for the transgender community. However, it’s important to keep in mind that specialization in gender affirmative voice therapy is still largely underrepresented among SLPs. Those who specialize in this area will help fill an important growing niche by providing much-needed therapies to this underserved community.

It’s clear that speech-language therapy can be just as important as hormonal therapy and other therapeutic efforts when helping someone transition from one gender to another. This begs the key question: How can SLPs help?

Voice Therapy Strategies and Considerations for SLPs

During gender affirmative voice therapy, SLPs aim to alter gender-related aspects of voice and communication (verbal and nonverbal) in a positive way. To do this successfully, they must consider the patient as a whole person, bringing a deep level of understanding of both the psychological and physiological implications of transitioning. SLPs will also need to be flexible, providing voice therapy at any point during a patient’s transition or even during the years following.

In addition, SLPs offering transgender voice therapy services will need to be pro-active about educating patients who are transitioning. This is because transgender clients may accidentally damage their vocal folds when chronically creating sounds their voices cannot make. It’s crucial for SLPs to identify any underlying vocal pathologies early on, educate clients on proper vocal care, as well as emphasize and oversee the process of making gradual, subtle vocal changes.

Finally, in the inpatient setting, SLPs and other staff must work together as an allied establishment to create a safe, comfortable, and accepting space. This means implementing proper guidelines, speaking with administrative departments to make changes around the building (such as changing bathroom areas to non-gender-specific), maintaining confidentiality and discretion, providing mental health services, and doing research to ensure all protocols are ethical and up to date. By striving to become allies to the transgender community, we can mindfully support our transgender patients as well as become more compassionate, well-rounded healthcare professionals.

For more reading around this topic, we recommend these articles:

Preparing Occupational Therapists for Treatment of the Transgender Population: A Training Guide for Supportive Care; Network for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns in Occupational Therapy; The Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Transgender Voice Modification Therapy; Working with transgender clients: Learning from others to improve occupational therapy practice

Grow Your SLP Skillset with ARC Seminars

In the future, gender affirmative voice therapy and other transgender-focused therapies are only going to grow in popularity. That’s why it’s crucial to continue investing in your education as a healthcare professional—so you can stay up to date on your credentials and continue making a profound positive impact on your patients’ lives.

Visit ARC Seminars today to learn how we’re empowering clinicians to treat intimidating conditions!

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