Master of Science in Counseling

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.

LGBT Competency Course Admissions for Non-Degree Seeking Students

  1. Submit official transcripts; requirement 3.0 GPA. Submit transcripts directly to the addresses listed below: (click here to link to transcript request form)
    • If sent electronically:

    • If sent through the physical mail:
      Graduate Application Processing
      PO Box 518
      Dallas, TX 75275-0518

  2. Sign Consent Form
  3. Once application is processed, the applicant will receive an email with instructions on submitting a background check and providing proof of liability insurance. Both must be received one week prior to the first day of class.
  4. TOEFL score of 92 may be required if English is not your first language.


  1. Graduate students will have enrollment priority 
  2. No PONI Day interview required
  3. No Advising provided

Effective Fall 2017, tuition for classes in the Master's Degree program will be $1,947 per 3-credit hour class ($649 per credit hour).

LGBT First ClassWho Should Apply

SMU Counseling program students, licensed mental health professionals, and graduate students in other mental health disciplines and/or from other programs. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, including counseling, psychology, medical, clinical social work, school counseling, marriage and family, substance misuse specialists, and other mental health fields.

In addition to Graduate Credit, Licensed Mental Health Professional will also received 42.5 hours of CEU credits.

Outside Scholarship Opportunities for LGBT and Ally Students

Prospective students are encouraged to explore outside scholarship and funding resources. Below are some helpful links with more information about organizations which provide scholarships for LGBT and ally students.

The Human Rights Campaign has a database of scholarships for LGBT scholars across the country:

The nonprofit group has a web page of LGBT scholarship opportunities:

The Point Foundation funds individual LGBT graduate and undergraduate scholars through an annual competitive process. Point only funds students enrolled in terminal degree programs (e.g. Masters, Doctoral, Medical) but financial awards can be applied to SMU tuition expenses for SMU Counseling students dually enrolled in the LGBT specialty courses.

Campus Pride National Scholarship Database 
This is a comprehensive list of scholarships and funding resources that are LGBT focused.

Applicants may also come across other opportunities by conducting a web search of their own.

Resource Center

Since 2008, the SMU Center for Family Counseling of the SMU Graduate School of Counseling has operated a satellite training clinic serving LGBT adolescents and adults. This is in partnership with Resource Center Dallas. Resource Center Dallas is one of the largest LGBT social service agencies in the country.

For more information about the Resource Center, the LGBT-focused satellite clinics, and the services they provide, click here.

Watch Dallas Voice TV's coverage of the new RC location