Date of Conferral





Human Services


Andrew Garland-Forshee


Research has indicated that lesbian, gay, and/or bisexual (LGB) couples seek mental health counseling far more than heterosexual couples. Using identity development theory and family-of-choice frameworks, a review of the literature revealed that there are a multitude of considerations in working with LGB couples. The use of self-determination theory and social cognitive theory also uncovered many considerations for counselors and counselors-in-training. The purpose of the current study was to add to the lacking empirical data regarding counselors-in-training by exploring their experiences in working with LGB couples. More specifically, this study aimed to understand perceptions regarding the educational training and self-efficacy of heterosexual-identified counselors-in-training who work with LGB couples. Through the use of a phenomenological interview approach, a purposive sample of seven counselors-in-training shared their experiences of working with LGB couples as well as their perceptions of their education and self-efficacy during their postgraduate work. Data interpretation, through the use of coding and a discovery-oriented approach, uncovered 10 themes that counselors-in-training shared. While the overarching theme was that every couple is to be treated similarly, regardless of sexual orientation, there were also very definite issues that were specific to LGB couples. The study's findings and recommendations can benefit those in the mental health fields as well as educators to continue to work toward consistency in educational programs and accreditation standards. The application of these findings can aid in implementing social change that embrace student and client needs in both classroom settings and hands-on field experience.