Counseling Students Learn to Be More Affirmative in their Profession

By | 2017-04-17T09:00:00+00:00 April 17th, 2017|Michigan, News|


Around 100 Oakland University students and professional counselors from across metro Detroit learned ways to be more LGBTQ-affirming in their field.

Human sexuality is complicated. That’s why the Oakland University Theta Chapter of the Chi Sigma Iota Sorority invited Dr. Joe Kort, a certified sex therapist in Royal Oak, to speak during their Allies in Counseling: LGBTQ+ Spring Conference on March 24. The room was filled with around 100 students and professional counselors from across metro Detroit, including members of the Michigan Counseling Association and the National Board of Certified Counselors.
“The board reached out to professionals we knew were knowledgeable in the LGBTQ+ area and from there we left it up to the presenters to decide what they wished to present on based on their knowledge base and area of expertise,” said Kelly Psotka, a mental health counseling major and vice president of the chapter.
“Going to things like this is really helpful for learning more about your profession and connecting with others,” she said.
Chi Sigma Iota is a sorority for counseling majors going to graduate school with a GPA of 3.75 or higher. Founded at Ohio State University in 1985, there are 375 chapters worldwide.
Psotka said Kort was referred by Dr. Michael P. Chaney, associate professor and coordinator of Addictions Specialization in the Department of Counseling, and a presenter at the conference.

Dr. Joe Kort, a certified sex therapist in Royal Oak, speaks during the Allies in Counseling: LGBTQ+ Spring Conference at Oakland University on March 24.

Kort has a doctorate in clinical sexology and specializes in out of control sexual behaviors, relationship problems, mixed orientation marriages and assisting others in defining their sexual identity, among other fields. Kort discussed why overt sexual abuse is harder to treat than covert, and the non-linear phases of coming out. He explained that it’s not a straight path and it’s perfectly possible to go back and forth between stages.
Conference goers heard from Kort about current practices and recent changes in the arena of sexual counseling before attending breakout sessions. They included Human Trafficking Training, Affirmative Counseling for LGBTQ+ Clients with Substance Abuse Disorders, HIV and Mental Health: Updates and Current Practice, and Working with African Americans who Identify as LGBTQIA+ hosted by Christopher Harris, an OU alumni with a bachelor’s degree in Integrative Studies and a master’s degree in Counseling.
“In my opinion more qualitative research is needed to get more data related to the experiences of Black Americans in this population. Statistics and percentages could be limited specifically for our community because so many are still uncomfortable or unsafe coming out. This reality, I feel, needs to drive further research,” he said.
Kort spoke to how this can complicate matters because “racial identity and affiliation is more important than LGBT identity for some people.” This is not true in all cases, but Kort said sometimes “their family and their place in the family supersedes everything.”
Among the students was Lauren Conibear, who is working on a Master of Arts in Counseling. She said the session about substance abuse in the LGBT community, hosted by Dr. Chaney, “allowed me to conceptualize substance abuse…through a systemic lens, meaning looking at how society at large contributes to the development and almost reinforces substance abuse in certain populations.”
Dr. Chaney reminded attendees that in order to be affirmative counselors they need to embrace a patients identity, rather than just tolerate it.
“A memorable moment was when he asked how many of us, by a show of hands, would be happy receiving the treatment that LGBTQ+ individuals currently receive,” said Conibear. “Looking around the room, and not seeing a single hand raised was a heartbreaking moment that stuck with me and really drove home the point that we – current and future clinicians – can, and need to, change that.”

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