Christina Collins Burton
The graduate students of Psychology Respecting Inclusivity, Diversity and Equality – or PRIDE – organized a psychology conference Saturday for those going into the field of treating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients.
“These are graduate students who really want to facilitate social justice regardless of sexual orientation,” University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman said.
The conference was made up of two keynote speakers and two breakout sessions led by professionals, who have treated patients from the LGBT community.
The day started with the morning keynote speaker Arlene Noriega, a licensed clinical psychologist from Atlanta.
Noriega presented guidelines for practicing psychologists that assisted in the treatment of LGBT clients and used stories of clients she treated.
Her stories both entertained and brought the audience into the reality of the prejudices facing LGBT treatment.
The guidelines Noriega presented were designed to help practitioners understand that not every problem LGBT clients face comes from their sexual orientation.
“If a patient went to a therapist or psychiatrist and said ‘depressed’ and happened to be LGBT, (the patient) walked out with a diagnosis before saying a word,” Noriega said.
The morning keynote set the tone for the main issue that the conference was created to address.
“She broke down the terminology for us so we were all understanding the same language,” said John Gilmore, administrative aide for the LaFetra College of Education.
After the morning keynote, guests were escorted to their first breakout sessions.
One session was hosted by Cadyn Cathers, who is a marriage and family therapist intern at the Los Angeles Gender Center.
Cathers’ topic, “Transference and Countertransference with Transgender, Gender Queer and Gender Non-Conforming Clients,” went over what happens when the dynamic of sexuality is the main focus. Multiple factors need to be taken into account when dealing with clients besides their sexuality, Cathers said. He then proceeded to list the many different pairings that could take place between therapist and client. Some pairings were easier to deal with than others, but all presented their own unique situation.
“A lot of theories don’t talk about trans clients, and I didn’t want to do Trans 101,” Cathers said. “I wanted to do something that was a little more in-depth.”
Mary Andres, an associate professor in the Rossier School of Education at USC, lead an afternoon discussion on “Identity Beyond the Boundaries,” which covered clients who identify as bisexual.
“As we expand out to understand people’s identification we have to struggle with not eclipsing parts of their personality,” Andres said.
The second keynote speaker was Doug Haldeman, a counseling psychologist in Seattle and a candidate for the American Psychological Association presidency. Haldeman presented “Sex, Love, and the Modern Family: LGBTQ Psychology in Cultural Context.”
He focused on clients that have a hard time hiding their sexual orientation among cynicism that plagues much of this country and other parts of the world. He also discussed sexual liberation and its evolution despite discrimination.
“Life is short. Try and find your courage to live authentically – even if that means disapproval.” Haldeman said.
Adam Wiswell, one of the students who organized the conference, has worked to create an LGBT advocacy on campus. Wiswell is passionate about fighting for the LGBT community and social justice.
“My sister is an LGBTQ individual,” Wiswell said. “If someone says something to her – that’s my family; it’s like saying it to me. She is inspiring to me.”
Christina Collins Burton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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