Gender-affirming surgery aims to give transgender individuals a body that aligns with their gender, but for many, their voice and speech pattern often doesn’t match their gender. That’s where the Rehabilitation Services Department at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital can help, now offering gender-affirming voice therapy.
Mira Fein, MS, CCC-SLP, has recently developed a program for gender-affirming voice and communication therapy to help individuals modify their voice, speech and overall communication behaviors to align with their gender. “As an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, I have always been interested in providing this kind of care,” she says. “I feel so privileged to be able to be part of this process of self-discovery, helping my clients feel like they are presenting their authentic self.”
Whether a person is planning for gender-affirming surgery, has already had gender-affirming surgery or is still unsure if surgery is right for them, Fein can help them discover their true voice. The process begins with an evaluation. “The first step is a comprehensive interview where we talk about the client’s goals for their communication,” explains Fein. “After the interview, we take acoustic measurements and listen to their voice and talk about what we want to do.”
Fein describes voice as an instrument, one that can be studied and mastered. Fein educates her clients on the anatomy of the voice in order to help them gain control of their instrument. Then she works with them on things like pitch and resonance, as well as the non-verbal cues that contribute to communication. At home, clients are encouraged to practice these new skills with common phrases they use in their day-to-day life, perhaps by calling a trusted friend and simply having a conversation with them.
Some clients reach their goals in as few as four to six weekly sessions, while others may benefit from four to six months or more. “Duration of treatment depends on each person’s individual needs, skills and progress,” says Fein.
Shailesh Agarwal, MD, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who performs gender-affirming mastectomy and gender-affirming breast augmentation at BWFH. He is thrilled to see these services round out the suite of gender-affirming services available within the Brigham family. “My goal is for my patients to feel comfortable with their presentation to others. Voice training dovetails with the services I provide by empowering patients to feel comfortable with how they sound and project themselves. This is incredibly important to patients who are transitioning socially as well as physically.”
In addition to gender-affirming voice therapy, physical therapists in the Rehabilitation Services Department at BWFH offer care for individuals recovering from gender-affirming surgery. Rachel Wolk, PT, DPT, treats transgender patients for urinary, bowel and sexual dysfunction. She also provides guidance for transgender patients immediately following gender-affirming surgery, including guidance with dilation post vaginoplasty and guidance to regain shoulder mobility and function post mastectomy.
If you’re interested in exploring your voice, call the Rehabilitation Services Department at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital at 617-983-7271.
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