Letter Writing: Advocacy and Ally-ship with Trans/Non-binary Communities

Presenters: Lane DiFlavis, LCSW & Alison Gerig, LCSW

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Time: 9 am – 12 pm | 3 CEs
(Please arrive at 8:30 am for registration, refreshments and socialization.)
Location: Philadelphia, PA (19103)

Please Note: This workshop is designed for clinicians who have some knowledge and experience around working with trans/GNC communities. There will not be time allotted for basic trans 101 material. If you are interested in a trans 101 presentation, PSCSW will be hosting one later in the year.

With the latest wave of the trans-liberatory movement in the last ten years and the growing transgender and gender non-conforming communities blossoming in Philadelphia, more social workers are finding themselves working with aspects of gender identity and transitioning with their clients. One aspect of supporting clients moving through a gender transition or exploring their gender identity is writing letters for medical treatment or for other support and safely issues. This advocacy process can bring up many questions and feelings for social workers not familiar with the gate keeping history and dynamics letter writing holds. These gaps can sometimes even discourage therapists from working with these communities unnecessarily. Clinicians often cite the myth of being sued, not knowing enough medically, or not understanding the requirements.

As social workers, our code of ethics guides us to act in ways that promote self-efficacy and advocacy when we are presented with this opportunity. However, a long and violent history exists in the mental health field that has pathologized and retraumatized trans communities. Despite many good intentions, the field has been fraught with discriminatory gate-keeping and de-humanizing and dis-empowering treatment, particularly around accessing documentation for medical interventions.

This presentation offers an alternative model to letter writing and advocacy that is co-created and potentially healing. I will offer ways to re-center self-efficacy and client empowerment. I will be open to hearing fears that clinicians have and will help debunk the myths around letter writing. I will also offer concrete steps to feel competent and successful in supporting your client on their journey. Opposed to becoming another provider gatekeeper, I will offer a model for being and advocate and partner in your client's journey towards more authenticity.

This presentation will explore the history and medical context from which letter writing emerged, different scenarios for writing a letter, clinical considerations to be included, how to identify and manage clinical contra-indications, and implications for social workers. Attendees will leave with an understanding of why it is feasible and valuable to advocate for our trans/gender non-conforming clients in this way and have concrete examples of how to complete the letter writing process through a co-created lens.


  1. Discuss the DSM criteria and historical frameworks of writing letters from the medical standards of care (WPATH)
  2. Identify three ways therapists can serve as partners and allies with trans and gender non-conforming/non-binary communities through letter writing
  3. Develop the skills to be able to complete a letter for medical needs or advocacy
  4. Explore clinical considerations when writing letters

About the Presenters:
Lane DiFlavis is a licensed clinical social worker who received his Master of Social Service from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Lane identifies as a white, queer, transmasculine, and feminist clinician who believes that healing is a radical act of social justice and has a strong commitment to working with those who have experienced gender and sexuality based oppression. He is currently a psychotherapist at Therapy Center of Philadelphia offering accessible therapy to women and the trans* community. Lane also works as a Behavioral Health Consultant at Philadelphia FIGHT’s John Bell Health Center; offering integrative mental health services within a primary care setting to folks at highest risk of HIV acquisition such as people returning from incarceration and members of the LGBTQ community. Lane has extensive experience providing training on working with the trans* community to a variety of professionals such as sports coaches, students, mental health and medical providers, foster parents, board of directors, and CEOs. He is looking forward to co-facilitating this conversation in hopes to empower more clinicians to feel confident in their ability to advocate for their trans* clients medically necessary and affirming surgeries.

As a white, cis, queer social worker and psychotherapist, Alison Gerig uses she/her pronouns and has been working with lgbt communities since 1997. She first worked with homeless queer youth at Callen-Lorde Health Center in NYC and then at Mazzoni Center as their first health services director, working with an interdisciplinary team to launch the first trans-health program in Philadelphia and in their Open Door mental health program. Alison trained with the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia, the Stone Center in Boston, the Multi-Cultural Family Institute, and is a trained EMDR clinician. Alison’s work is informed by social justice frameworks where she attends to social location and privilege/subjugation experiences within the therapy/client relationship and in the client’s narrative and history. She also uses somatic approaches that allow her to access clinical material through body awareness and exploration. Alison maintains a private practice where she predominantly sees queer, trans, and gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals and couples. Over the years, Alison has provided trainings on how to work with trans/GNC/NB communities with mental health providers, community foundations, and in undergraduate and graduate level classes. Alison is the executive director of Therapy Center of Philadelphia where she provided the vision to expand the mission to strive to offer affordable therapy to low-income transgender communities through a lens of racial equity and social justice. She also provided the Keynote Address titled From Pathology to Celebration: Social Work’s Connection to Gender Liberation at the 2015 PSCSW Annual Dinner.

Cancellation Policy:
PSCSW Members: There is a $5 non refundable administrative fee for any cancellation up to 48 hours prior to this program.
Non Members: There is a $10 non refundable administrative fee for any cancellation up to 48 hours prior to this program.

No refund will be issued if less than 48 hours notice is given for this program.

This program is presented and hosted by PSCSW members. Both the presenter and host put a lot of time and preparation to make sure that attendees are receiving a wonderful program and feel welcome at the program. Just as in your professional life when someone cancels last minute, it has an impact on you. Please be cognizant of this when you register for this program.

Continuing Education Credits:
FOR PENNSYLVANIA SOCIAL WORKERS, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS, AND PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS: This program is approved for credits for professional workshops sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work, a state affiliate of the Clinical Social Work Association listed in Section 47.36 of Title 49, Chapter 47 of the PA Code, State Board of Social Work Examiners. This program is also approved for credits for professional workshops for marriage & family therapists (Section 48.36) and professional counselors (Section 49.36).
FOR NEW JERSEY SOCIAL WORKERS: This program is approved for clinical credits. Attendance at programs or courses given at state and national social work association conferences, where the criteria for membership is an academic degree in social work, are a valid source of continuing education credit (N.J.A.C. 13:44G-6.4(c)4).

PSCSW Members - Before you begin any registration, you must log in to the website to pay the member rate. If you register without logging in, you will pay at the nonmember rate. If you need assistance logging in, please contact the PSCSW office at: pscsw@pscsw.org.

  • March 10, 2018
    9:00 am - 12:00 pm