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In line with the need to have graduate programs include material on LGBT issues, AFFIRM recently distributed a letter to Directors of Clinical Training in clinical psychology graduate programs in the U.S., offering relevant readings (click on Bibliographies for readings). The text of that letter appears below:

It’s difficult to imagine a more visible current social issue than lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The issues range from same-sex marriage to the ordination of LGBT clergy, from same-sex adoption to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Regardless of the outcome of the social debates and proposed legislation currently affecting LGBT individuals, one thing is clear—LGBT individuals are no longer a hidden minority. From television characters to politicians, from family members to neighbors, more and more LGBT individuals are making themselves visible.

With this increased visibility comes the increased likelihood that psychologists will encounter LGBT individuals who seek their professional help. Research shows that LGBT individuals utilize therapy at higher rates than the general population and that nearly all psychologists report seeing at least one LGBT individual in their practices. LGBT individuals present with the usual mental health concerns in addition to some unique concerns, such as victimization, internalized homophobia, family rejection, identity development, and coming out--just to name a few. Some professionals may suggest that no special knowledge is necessary to work with an LGBT client, that an intelligent, compassionate stance is sufficient. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be true. Indeed, surveys have indicated that large numbers of LGBT individuals have been adversely affected by their therapy experiences. Also distressing is the fact that therapists report feeling unqualified to work with LGBT clients. Recent surveys of clinical and counseling psychology students suggest that the students we train do not feel prepared to address the unique concerns with which LGBT individuals present.

Students report receiving minimal training in LGBT issues and feeling incompetent in working with LGBT clients (see references below). As a result, most of clinicians’ LGBT-related knowledge comes from continuing education programs and post-graduate workshops--if they seek even that. Students themselves are so concerned about the lack of LGBT-related coverage in their coursework that they recently submitted a memo on behalf of the APA Graduate Student organization (APAGS) to the Committee on Accreditation (CoA) urging that the CoA more carefully monitor the inclusion of LGBT-related content in graduate coursework as part of the diversity requirement. 

It would be unfortunate if our profession continued to produce clinicians who are under-prepared to work with a group of individuals who seek our services in great numbers. Given our field’s historically less-than-helpful treatment of LGBT individuals, the continued lack of preparation in working with LGBT clients is especially discouraging. Rather than risking the possibility of sustaining uninformed treatment of this group, we now have an opportunity to instill LGBT-related competence in the next generation of psychologists.

Recognizing the promise that our field possesses for improving the lives of LGBT individuals through LGBT-affirmative treatment, the ARCUS Foundation National LGBT Fund has provided funding for AFFIRM: Psychologists Affirming Their Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Family to promote greater inclusion of readings on LGBT issues in graduate psychology curriculum. We on the Steering Committee of AFFIRM are excited about carrying out this objective, as are many of the training directors to whom we have presented this idea. 

Given our own experience in graduate programs, we know all too well what a burden it can be to satisfy the requirements of the CoA and site visitors. Consequently, AFFIRM will make the task quite simple for training directors and faculty. Working together with the APA Society for the Psychological Study of LGB Issues (Division 44), AFFIRM will compile lists of suggested readings that can readily fit into extant course syllabi in core training courses (e.g., assessment, intervention, psychopathology). In order to get a better understanding of current course content in your program and perhaps to suggest relevant readings, an AFFIRM member will be contacting you and/or a student representative in your department asking for copies of syllabi so that we can suggest readings to faculty who may wish to incorporate LGB content.

As practitioners, faculty, and training directors who affirm our LGBT family, the more than 650 members of AFFIRM have come to realize that by paying attention to the unique issues that LGBT individuals face, we not only improve their lives, but are also challenged to think of all human behavior in more nuanced, effective ways. We hope that by promoting the inclusion of LGBT-related content in training curricula, we will also impart a more complex, diverse way of thinking about human behavior to the next generation of psychologists.

We thank you for your support of this mission.

For the references compiled, together with Abstracts for each, click on Bibliographies.