Trans-Authentic: IFS and Gender Identity

In this episode...

Today on The Soul of Life I speak with IFS lead trainer, trauma therapist and former Harvard psychiatrist Frank Anderson about the surge of young children questioning their gender or seeking to transition.

One recent U.S. survey cited in a MedScape Psychiatry journal article found a 4000% increase (over 40-fold) in the number of gender dysphoria cases since 2006.

We agree just how important it is—and rare—to find a safe space as mental health clinicians to explore our own biases, judgments and subconscious fears that could interfere with our ability to hold genuine curiosity and clarity when we see families in our practice struggling to navigate these complex decisions.

"It takes somebody a while to get connected to what’s authentic for them. I couldn’t explore my sexual orientation, at all, until my trauma was healed.... Let’s not make any decisions until you’ve healed your trauma."

-Frank Anderson, MD, psychiatrist and IFS Lead Trainer

IFS stands for the Internal Family Systems model of psychotherapy that represents the state-of-the-art among trauma therapists for its paradigm-bending view of the mind as naturally multiple—and the view that we have protective aspects of our identity that can mask our real authentic Self.

We discuss how the IFS concept of Self—a core spiritual aspect of us that is distinct from our protective parts—could be key to help relieve distress on both sides of the cultural polarity related to kids and gender identity.

I ask Frank what Self-Led Gender Fluidity would look like if applied to children who want to identify as trans.

Frank talks about his experience with kids in his practice who question their sexual orientation or gender identity—two totally distinct things—and what he calls the natural evolution of authenticity around identity development.

Frank Anderson, MD, completed his residency and was a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is both a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and specializes in the treatment of trauma and dissociation. He is passionate about teaching brain-based psychotherapy and integrating current neuroscience knowledge with the IFS model of therapy.

Dr. Anderson is a lead trainer at the IFS Institute with Richard Schwartz and maintains a long affiliation with, and trains for, Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Center. He serves as an advisor to the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP) and was the former chair and director of the Foundation for Self-Leadership.

Dr. Anderson has lectured extensively on the Neurobiology of PTSD and Dissociation and wrote the chapter “Who’s Taking What” Connecting Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology and Internal Family Systems for Trauma in Internal Family Systems Therapy – New Dimensions. He co-authored a chapter on “What IFS Brings to Trauma Treatment in Innovations and Elaborations in Internal Family Systems Therapy” and recently co-authored Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual.

Dr. Anderson maintains a private practice in Concord, MA.

His new book (May 2021) is Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems.

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