Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Preparing School Counselors to Support Lgbt Youth: The Roles of Graduate Education and Professional Development

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Preparing School Counselors to Support Lgbt Youth: The Roles of Graduate Education and Professional Development

Article excerpt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are at disproportionate risk for stigmatizing and discriminatory experiences in schools, including alarmingly high rates of school-based bullying, harassment, and biased language (Harris Interactive & GLSEN, 2005; Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014). School-based victimization has been linked to LGB youths' increased risks for health and mental health problems (Burton, Marshal, Chisolm, Sucato, & Friedman, 2013; Shields, Whitaker, Glassman, Franks, & Howard, 2012) and academic problems among LGBT youth (Kosciw et al., 2014; Kosciw, Palmer, Kull, & Greytak, 2013). The school counselor-who is tasked with providing support to students whose experiences jeopardize their academic and psychological well-being-is uniquely positioned to be an invaluable resource to LGBT students. Therefore, the need is urgent to understand the factors and dynamics underlying school counselors' efforts to support and improve school climate for LGBT students.

The School Counselor's Role in Supporting LGBT Students

Research suggests that certain school resources and supports can lead to better academic performance and fewer victimization experiences for LGBT students (e.g., Kosciw et al., 2014). As such, safe school advocates endorse specific recommendations and guidelines for comprehensive LGBT-related school counseling practices, such as direct services to LGBT students in need and improving the school climate (GoRyan odrich, Harper, Luke, & Singh, 2013). The American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) position statement on LGBT youth and the ASCA National Model highlight the need for school counselors to engage in comprehensive efforts to support the social, emotional, and academic well-being of all students, including those who are LGBT (ASCA, 2012, 2013). Despite these recommendations, educators in general have been found to intervene only infrequently in the victimization of LGBT students (Harris Interactive & GLSEN, 2005; McCabe & Rubinson, 2008), with about one fourth to one half of school-based mental health professionals never providing services to LGBQ students (Sawyer, Porter, Lehman, Anderson, & Anderson, 2006). Unfortunately, research to identify the barriers school counselors may face in providing comprehensive services to LGBT students is lacking.

School Counselors' LGBTRelated Education and Training

Research suggests that mental health professionals in general (Bidell, 2005; Graham, Carney, & Kluck, 2012; Murphy, Rawlings, & Howe, 2002) and school counselors specifically (Bidell, 2012; Farmer, Welfare, & Burge, 2013; Schmidt, Glass, & Wooten, 2011) may feel unprepared to work competently with LGBT clients/students. A lack of LGBT-specific school counselor training-such as graduate education and ongoing professional development (e.g., in-service training)-might contribute to counselors feeling unprepared. For example, school mental health professionals have cited a lack of LGBspecific training as a primary barrier to providing services to LGB students (Sawyer et al., 2006).

Despite evidence that mental health professionals in general receive some graduate-level exposure to LGBT-related topics (Luke, Goodrich, & Scarborough, 2011; Martin et al., 2009; Sherry, Whilde, & Patton, 2005), the quality and breadth of their LGBTrelated education may be insufficient. School mental health professionals have reported that their education and training did not sufficiently prepare them to meet LGB youths' needs (McCabe & Rubinson, 2008; Savage, Prout, & Chard, 2004; Sawyer et al., 2006), and studies suggest that school counselors receive little exposure to LGBT-related graduate education (Jennings, 2014; Luke et al., 2011). For example, Luke, Goodrich, and Scarborough (2011) found that graduate counseling trainees primarily received LGBT-related information within a single class or lecture.

Ongoing professional development for school counselors may be a critical component of their preparedness to engage in LGBT-supportive efforts. …

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