A Comprehensive Guide – How to Get a WPATH Letter for Top Surgery
Below all uses of the abbreviation WPATH stand for World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
WPATH letters are essential documents that are required to access gender-affirming care, such as top surgery. In Melbourne, these letters are needed for individuals seeking gender-confirmation surgery or other gender-affirming surgeries. WPATH letters provide evidence of an individual’s eligibility for the surgery. They also serve as a signal of support from a qualified mental health professional. They are also used to ensure that the patient is informed about the risks and benefits associated with the procedure. For this reason, it is important for those seeking top surgery to obtain a WPATH letter prior to undergoing any gender-affirming surgical procedure.
What Is a WPATH Letter and Who Needs One for Top Surgery in Melbourne?
A WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) letter is a recommendation letter, typically from a mental health professional that is needed for many gender-affirming surgeries. The letter must determine that a person is ready for the surgery and affirms the individual’s gender identity, it must also explain why this surgery is medically necessary. In order to obtain a WPATH letter, a patient will need to meet certain criteria and undergo an evaluation with a mental health professional.
WPATH Assessment and Letters
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is an international organisation that provides guidelines and standards of care for individuals seeking gender-affirming surgeries and treatments.
WPATH states that a person seeking top surgeries or other gender-affirming treatments must receive a WPATH-compliant assessment letter from a qualified mental health professional. This letter is meant to confirm that the individual has been adequately assessed, understands the risks and benefits of the treatment, and is making an informed decision.
In order to obtain a WPATH-compliant assessment letter, a person must have an individualised assessment that includes an in-depth discussion about the risks and benefits of the treatment, any alternative treatments, and a period of informed reflection. A mental health professional must provide documentation that the individual meets the eligibility criteria for the treatment and has provided informed consent.
The WPATH-compliant assessment letter must be signed by both the individual seeking the assessment and the mental health professional providing the assessment. The letter should include the date of the assessment, the date of the letter, and a statement of informed consent.
Criteria Required for a WPATH Letter for Top Surgery
In order to receive a WPATH letter for top surgery, individuals must have:
- A diagnosis of gender dysphoria
- Undergone psychological assessment, counselling, or therapy
- Received hormones (e.g. testosterone or estrogen) and been on hormones for a certain period of time
- Lived in their identified gender role within the community for at least one year
- The capacity to make a fully informed decision and to give informed consent
- No contraindications to surgery
- An understanding of the risks and benefits of the surgery
- Realistic expectations of the results of the surgery
- Two referral letters from two separate mental health professionals
Getting Your Top Surgery Support Letter
Getting a top surgery support letter is an important step in the process of undergoing gender-affirming surgery. In order to receive a top surgery support letter, you will need to meet with a mental health professional and provide them with a detailed history of your transition.
Your mental health professional will ask you a variety of questions related to your transition, such as how long you have been living in your identified gender role and how hormones have impacted your health and wellbeing. They will also want to evaluate your capacity to make an informed decision and to demonstrate an understanding of the risks and benefits associated with top surgery.
Once your mental health professional has assessed your case, they will provide you with your top surgery support letter. This letter is required by surgeons in order for you to proceed with the procedure, so it is important to have it in hand before you meet with a surgeon.
How to Find a Therapist for Top Surgery Letter
Finding a therapist in Melbourne who is experienced in providing top surgery letters can be a challenge, but there are a few steps you can take to make the process easier.
First, you should look into mental health resources in your local area. There are organisations dedicated to providing mental health services, including therapy and top surgery letters. Try searching online for organisations in your area and contacting them directly for more information.
Another option is to reach out to friends and family members to see if they know anyone who has had a top surgery letter in the past. This way, you can get a personal referral and have direct contact with someone who has gone through the process.
Dr Briggs team suggests
- Laura Gorrie (They/Them) – Registered Clinical Psychologist www.lgpsychology.net
- Juniper Muller (They/She) – LGBTI Psychologist, MAPS www.melbournequeerpsychologist.com
- Dr Andrew Hui (He/Him) – Consultant Psychiatrist www.huipsychiatry.com.au
- Ms Jayda Akder – Registered Psychologist www.prahranmarketclinic.com
You can also try online here – WPATH members.
FAQs about WPATH Letter for Top Surgery
What are the requirements for WPATH assessment?
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC) outline a set of requirements for a transgender person who is seeking gender-affirming care. In order to receive a WPATH assessment, individuals must:
- Be 18 years or older
- Provide valid documentation from a mental health professional
- Provide documentation of financial ability to pay for health care
- Submit a complete medical history
- Provide a letter of referral from a mental health professional for gender-affirming care
- Provide proof of identity
- Submit a written statement of desire for gender-affirming care
- Submit two photographs of the individual
- Provide a statement of informed consent
- Agree to regular follow-up visits with their healthcare provider.
WPATH also requires that individuals seeking gender-affirming care must have had at least three months of mental health care, hormone therapy, and/or hair removal before they can receive a WPATH assessment.
What Is the Informed Consent Model?
The Informed Consent Model is a set of guidelines developed by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) for individuals considering gender-affirming surgeries, like top surgery. It includes four key elements;
- A detailed explanation of the procedure, potential risks and benefits, and alternatives
- A documented period of informed reflection, during which the individual is encouraged to consider the procedure carefully and discuss it with trusted support people
- Confirmation that the individual has a clear understanding of the procedure and its risks and benefits, and has chosen to proceed
- Documentation of informed consent
The Informed Consent Model is designed to ensure that individuals considering gender-affirming surgeries are well-informed and have a clear understanding of their decisions before they proceed. Following this model helps to ensure that individuals are making informed decisions that are in line with their own beliefs, values, and goals.
What are the Standards of Care V8?
- The Standards of Care V8 is a document developed by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) to provide best practices for transgender health. It is the first version to be developed using an evidence-based approach and is referred to as the “SOC8” by experts. One of the key highlights of the document is that it categorizes facial gender-affirming surgery as a medical necessity. Further, the document includes recommendations based on evidence-based guidelines , and is open to public feedback and updates.
How long does it take to get a WPATH letter?
- The WPATH Assessment Aware Psychology Clinic in Melbourne, Australia provides assessments and letters for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and gender-affirming surgery that meet the requirements set by the World Professional Association for Trans Health (WPATH) and adopted by the Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AUSPATH).
- Typically, the assessment process takes 4-6 sessions, depending on the complexity of the individual’s situation, and may also require consultations with specialists such as a General Practitioner, endocrinologist, or psychiatrist.
- The clinic only offers WPATH assessments to people over 18 years of age. If you are under 18, the Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service or other private providers may be more suitable, however the clinic is still willing to help with other aspects of transition, such as social transition, speaking with parents or family, and managing dysphoria.
What is the process of getting a WPATH letter for Top Surgery in Melbourne?
- In order to get a WPATH letter for top surgery in Melbourne, you must first visit a mental health provider to obtain a readiness referral.
- This referral will state that you are able to consent to the surgery and that it is the right choice for you.
- Additionally, you will need to obtain a letter of support from a licensed mental health professional or other health professional trained in behavioral health. This letter will be used to demonstrate that you have met all the criteria for gender-affirming surgery, such as a history of gender incongruence and the ability to make a fully informed decision.
- It is important to note that gender-affirming surgery is not a cure-all, and you should live as your current gender for at least 12 months before deciding if it is the right choice for you.
Further Reading about Gender Affirmation Surgery
Medical References about Transgender Surgery
- Approval Letter Model
- WPATH Assessment
- ASPS USA Page on Gender Affirmation Surgeries
- WPATH Standards of Care Version 8
Dr Patrick Briggs Melbourne
Dr Patrick Briggs FRACS (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) is a Specialist Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon.
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What to Bring to Your Consultation
- If you like, please bring a friend or relative to help discuss the information and your choices.
- Take a lot of notes and thoroughly examine the documents your surgeon provides.
- You may need to undress so it’s a good idea to wear simple clothes.
The information provided in this article is for educational and informational proposes. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The author and publisher of this article make no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, or completeness of the content of this article. The information contained in this article is strictly at your own risk.