Reflections and (un)learnings on supporting transgender and gender diverse people and their families in a mental health family service new to this work

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Henry von Doussa, Julie Beauchamp, Sally Goldner & Belinda Zipper


Henry von Doussa, MA (Creative Arts), BA (Hons), is a social researcher at the Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University. Over the last two decades, much of his research has been within the LGBTIQA+ communities. He is the author of several papers about trans and gender diverse people’s experiences of family. Part of his role at the Bouverie Centre is to work with Julie Beauchamp (co-author of this paper) to bring a research and resource content perspective to support relational health in families where gender diversity is present.

Julie Beauchamp, BAppSci(OT), MC/FTherapy, CertIVAWT, is the Manager of Clinical Services at the Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University, and has extensive experience in clinical practice with families, couples, and individuals as well as teaching/training and clinical supervision. Her role at the Bouverie Centre includes provision of systemic and trauma informed family therapy, management, and supervision, teaching in academic and professional development programs and providing clinical consultation and training for professionals in other organisations.

Sally Goldner has over 20 years’ involvement in Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ communities, including with Transgender Victoria, co-facilitating Transfamily, 3 CR’s “Out of the Pan”, and as the Bisexual Alliance Victoria Treasurer. She received an Order of Australia in 2019, was the 2015 LGBTI Victorian of the Year, and joined the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll in 2016.

Belinda Zipper completed a BA(Hons) at Swinburne University, then worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. She has since made a career working from not-for-profits in public health and education. Belinda is a transgender woman who also lives with Parkinson’s disease. She has been interviewed about her lived experiences for national TV, radio, and online media. She has also worked in advocacy and education.



Counsellors and family therapists unfamiliar with working with transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people may be hesitant to undertake this work. A lack of familiarity is not a reason to avoid the work. There is a clear need for professionals to be open to supporting people with TGD lived experience and their families, who are increasingly turning to healthcare services for help. This paper outlines an approach adopted by an organisation not well practised in working with TGD people, in response to increased calls for support. The Bouverie Centre, in Victoria, Australia, paired a researcher (who works in other contexts with TGD people and their families) and a clinical family therapist (not well practised in working with TGD people) to synthesise their skills and knowledge to fill the service gap. This paper offers reflections and (un)learnings from these 45+ year old, cisgender workers who were new to clinical work with people with TGD lived experience and their families.


Keywords: Australia, family, transgender, clinical reflections


Address for correspondence:
Henry von Doussa