The treatment of gender identity disorder in children focuses on alleviating the child's current unhappiness that stems either from inner dissatisfaction on from parental disappointment or the cruelty other kids will often display toward someone who is different. Only a small minority of children with Gender Identity Disorder will go on to transsexualism in adulthood, and there is some evidence that early therapeutic intervention may diminish the risk of its later development.
In psychotherapy with the child, a goal is to insert a middle ground into the child's polarized view of gender roles. For example, boys who avoid playing male stereotyped rough and tumble games can be encouraged to play board games with other boys. Girls who see athletics as an activity to be done only with boys can be encouraged to play with other athletic girls or on mixed teams.
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Family therapy can focus on strengthening the child's relationship with the same sex parent. Fathers who may feel alienated from their sons because of a lack of interest in athletic play should be encouraged to find other mutually enjoyable activities (for example, camping, model building) that can serve as a foundation for building a renewed relationship. Peer stigmatization is a potent source of distress for the child that can lead to chronic low self esteem.
Behavioral techniques can be employed in younger children to discourage the overt display of cross gender behaviors that lead to teasing. Although such superficial changes in behavior are unlikely to produce substantial internal changes, they do result in greater peer group acceptance and an enhanced self image. When child grows older and is mature enough to appreciate the pros and cons of unconventional behavior, then he or she can make a more informed decision.
For adolescents and adults with gender identity disorder, psychotherapy is the primary treatment. The primary goals of therapy are to address the self blame of being different and to explore the options available for comfortably coping with their gender condition. Options range from learning to integrate both male and female gender awareness into daily life, to living in the preferred gender role.