About the Program

LGBT Program

The Affirmative Therapy with LGBT Clients courses are designed to address the knowledge gap of behavioral health professionals working with LGBT individuals, couples, and families. LGBT people are entering counseling requiring more episodes of care and experiencing greater behavioral health disparities than their heterosexual counterparts. Our program is constructed to:
  • review the most current understandings in the field; 
  • focus on evidence-based social science;
  • spotlight LGBT competency guidelines;
  • challenge heteronormative bias that can enter the therapy room through both the therapist’s guiding theoretical foundations and the clients own belief systems.

With greater societal awareness of differences in sexual orientation and gender expression and identity, people are coming out at younger ages and in ways unlike previous research has informed us. Many individuals, families, schools, and communities are looking to our field to provide guidance, increase protective factors, and respond in a culturally appropriate manner across all practice settings.

The LGBT specialty program is open to our SMU Counseling program students, licensed mental health professionals, and graduate students in other mental health disciplines and/or from other programs. Students can take one or all three courses during our convenient weekend class format offered during each academic year. Graduate credit is awarded for each completed course. Many boards accept graduate credits for their continuing education requirements. A certificate of completion in Affirmative Therapy with LGBT Clients is awarded to those that complete all three courses. 


LGBT Competency Training Course Descriptions

Affirmative Therapy with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual clients

HDCN 6355
April 7-9, 2017 and May 19-21, 2017 (Fridays 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8:30 am - 5:30 pm)

The central focus of this course is the development of affirming professional competency in assessment and intervention with sexual minorities. Cultural context and practice implications of heteronormativity in therapists and clients will be examined. Further, skills and practices with consideration to external factors and internal processes that can impact the lives and mental health of LGB persons will be addressed. Current understandings of micro-aggression and minority stress will be reviewed. Additional implications of intersecting identities of race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and religion on the development of sexual orientation and identity integration will be highlighted. The course will also examine affirming and culturally responsive strategies for addressing co-occurring diagnoses of major mental health, substance misuse, and major medical including HIV and AIDS.

Affirmative Therapy with Transgender Clients

HDCN 6356
August 11-13, 2017, September 15-17, 2017 (Fridays 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8:30 am - 5:30 pm)

This course will focus on the development of affirming professional competency to support and assist transgender and gender non-conforming clients. The diversity of ways of being a gender and the importance of language for those that are gender non-conforming, transgender, transsexual and intersex will be explored. Trans-positive practices to assist with the effects of biological, familial, social, cultural and psychological factors in shaping gender experiences and self-understanding throughout the life span will be focused. Gender dysphoria and gender variance will be distinguished from sometimes co-occurring major mental health or substance misuse diagnoses. The evolving role of the therapist in coordination of care with medical needs and services related and unrelated to transition, standards of care and the medical options available that are specific to transition will be reviewed. The disproportionate rates of homelessness, HIV, substance misuse, abuse, domestic violence and other social and health care disparities will be a part of this study.

Affirmative Therapy with LGBT Couples and Families

HDCN 6357
October 27-29, 2017, December 15-17, 2017 (Fridays 4:00 - 9:00 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8:30 am - 5:30 pm)

This course will help to develop affirming practice strategies by examining a broader social context affecting and considering many LBGT family constellations. It will challenge underlying assumptions found in the development of family models and theoretical foundations used to guide couple and family therapy. The similar and useful aspects of major theories will be practiced. Adjustment that can be made for successful LBGT work will be considered. Culturally responsive intervention skills will be focused. Strategies to address more common presenting issues can include but will not be limited to: the coming out family crisis during youth and difference during adulthood, double gender effects and common issues in same-sex couples, differing levels of identity integration effects in partnering, bisexual relationship considerations, mixed orientation or gender identity marriages, relational ambiguity, family planning options with legal considerations, parenting by LBGT, parenting LBGT youth by heterosexual parents, family management of stigma and lack of institutional support.