Episode 26

Published on:

4th Jun 2021

26 - Behind the Curtain: Depth Work in Gender Exploratory Therapy - Part II

Sasha and Stella continue their series which peers behind the curtain of depth work with gender-questioning clients. Today, they weave in philosophy and psychology to discuss the importance of authenticity, happiness, and connectedness. They also explore the value of art in the slow evolving process of an emergent Self.


The Catcher in the Rye: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5107.The_Catcher_in_the_Rye  

The Bell Jar : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6514.The_Bell_Jar  

Taxi Driver: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxi_Driver  

The Scream: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream  

Raised by the Village (with Stella O’Malley): https://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/1076971-raised-by-the-village/ 

External Locus of Control: https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-1-4419-1005-9_250#:~:text=Definition,luck%2C%20chance%2C%20or%20randomness.  



Extended Notes

  • How do you “break the ice,” as it were, with a gender-questioning teen? 
  • Sasha and Stella noticed that a lot of these children don’t have “joy” in their lives.
  • What does it mean to be authentic?
  • So many teens feel different from others and they feel like no one else understands the feelings they’re going through.
  • A lot of gender-questioning teens are asking very common existential questions. It often shows up everywhere, really.
  • Sasha often likes to ask what are some of the common triggers to her client’s gender dysphoria. The answers are very interesting and insightful.
  • Going from a child body to an adult body is very jarring.
  • If a child is experiencing same-sex attraction, therapists really need to slow down in this process and explore.
  • Everybody says they’re pro-LGBTQ, but they just don’t want it for themselves.
  • There is a lot of bullying going on in schools when someone is gay or a lesbian — a lot of bullying.
  • It’s one thing to say you’re okay with it, but it’s quite another to be experiencing same-sex attraction physically.
  • Sasha works a lot with helping her clients find their own voice that’s not a reaction towards their parent’s wishes.
  • When parents are so adamant about what the “right thing” is for their children, the children end up doubling down even further.
  • Sasha loves to do these “gender timelines” to help the child see how their views change over time.
  • Stella really likes to go “behind the label.” Yes, they’re calling themselves certain things, but let’s dig deeper as to why.
  • Some children also have a hard time accepting their very “ordinary” selves.
  • Let’s explore internal vs. external locus of control.
  • Young people have been sold this idea that they can control how other people perceive them.
  • Stella likes to encourage her clients to develop their own sense of style. Not develop a style based on “what they think it means to be trans.” What her clients come up with is often very freeing.
  • Stella is also curious to understand whether medications are suppressing libidos and this means young teens feel like they have to question their gender more because they feel stuck and they’re not progressing like their peers are.

This podcast is partially sponsored by ReIME, Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics:


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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

Profile picture for Stella O'Malley
Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

Profile picture for Sasha Ayad
Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.