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Supporting Transgender Students: Culture, Attitudes, and Care in College Counseling Centers

1 January 2017


Previous research has found that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face significant barriers to seeking mental health care services, despite being at higher risk of adverse mental health outcomes. While college students overall have higher access to mental health services when provided on-campus, transgender students may have barriers to adequate care at these centers related to provider and organizational variables. This may include providers with transphobic attitudes, few transgender-inclusive resources in counseling centers, or poor adherence to standards of care for serving transgender and gender non-conforming students. This study is an examination of the relationship between these barriers and both individual and organizational variables with a survey of mental health providers at college counseling centers in the United States (n=175). Results showed higher adherence to published standards of care for transgender clients from providers who attended secular degree programs, who had training in transgender issues, and (of those with training) who received supervision with transgender clients. Endorsement of transphobic attitudes was associated with a lack of training in transgender issues and fewer transgender clients. Transphobic attitudes were negatively related to adherence to standards of care. Secular institutions and counseling centers with more staff members were found to have greater resources for transgender clients. The findings of this study may help us better understand the state of transgender care in college counseling centers and could be used to inform training and policy development at college counseling centers with the ultimate goal of decreasing mental health care barriers for transgender students.


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