MA in Clinical Psychology

LGBT-Affirmative Psychology specialization

A pioneer in social justice for over 150 years, Antioch University Los Angeles launched one of the nation’s first graduate psychology specialization devoted to affirmative psychology for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer, intersex, and questoning (LGBT) individuals over 10 years ago. Now in its second decade of training professionals to become practitioner-advocates in the LGBTQQIA community, the program welcomes you and is excited for you to explore our intersections between social justice and LGBTQ resilience and liberation.

Recently featured in the New York Times

We are honored to have our LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology featured in the NY Times. This article discusses the importance of LGBT-affirmative theories and practices in mental health training and makes some powerful statements about the inherent, and even spiritual, nature of being LGBT and the need for a unique LGBT psychology. Although there is one paradigm represented in the article, it is only one perspective that is discussed the program. As Antioch University prides itself on social justice, we firmly believe in the importance of incorporating multiple realities with students. As such, The LGBT Specialization cherishes these alternative perspectives in the training of our students. Read the full article.

In two years, students can complete all the required coursework for California licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) while simultaneously developing specific expertise in developing the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and self-awareness to develop the most effective and empowering mental health services for LGBT individuals.

The specialization courses are to be taken in addition to all the standard courses required for MFT or LPCC licensure (or can provide the focus for a non-clinical degree). Courses are taught by experienced instructors who are fully engaged in the practice of psychotherapy, the training and supervision of clinical supervision, community activism, and LGBT-focused social justice

The Antioch University Los Angeles specialization in LGBT-Affirmative Theory and Practice will help students as affirmative practitioners address the impact of minority stress (e.g., internalized homo/bi/transphobia) that can be seen as underlying causes for the depression, anxiety, substance abuse, unsafe sex, and other psychic challenges faced by many LGBT individuals. But more importantly, you can help LGBT people and their allies connect with a long-lost meaning and potential for themselves, their resilience and community, and society at large through learning about specific affirmative methods and treatment methods.

The LGBT Specialization benefits both LGBT people wanting to become immersed in the life-saving domain of affirmative theory and practice as well as “allies” who themselves may not be LGBT but are eager to serve this community with new competencies and qualifications.


MethodologyLGBT CommunityCurriculumStudent VoicesPhilosophy
The LGBT Specialization pioneers an integral approach based in a transtheoretical methodology that has historical roots in psychodynamic theory but also utilizes theories such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems, narrative therapy, feminist therapy, and existential-humanist approaches to help clients with basic problem-solving and fostering personal, collective, and interpersonal resilience. The program also looks at the impact of societal oppressions (e.g., the effect of surviving in a heterosexist, transphobic, racist, ableist culture). While learning to work affirmatively with multiple theories in culturally and ethnically diverse ways, students are taught to appreciate and honor the living presence of social justice and advocacy in themselves and their clients. Aspects of postmodernism and Queer Theory are also utilized to help students to deconstruct heteronormativity and unjust power and other forms of colonialism. All forms of students’ (and their clients’) identities are explored: those within the spectrum of fluidity as well as those people who may be more secure in their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities. Those people who are not LGBTQ or fluid, but are brave allies, are encouraged to study in the LGBT Specialization, as many of our most vocal alumni are allies.

Students are invited to engage and discourse with the LGBT Specialization’s emergent Affirmative Philosophy to create a rich and stimulating learning environment.

When you enter the LGBT Specialization, you become part of a cultural hub in Los Angeles devoted to LGBT art, culture, learning, and psychology. Over the years, we have put on many different exciting cultural events. We’ve offered a reading series promoting nationally-recognized authors Felice Picano and Judy Grahn, have hosted conferences, an LGBT people of color “teach-in,” and many live performances.

We also host four LGBT quarterly dinners a year, and always create a special event for student commencement.

The LGBT Specialization curriculum introduces you to the cutting-edge domain of knowledge called “LGBT-Affirmative Psychology.” This area of concern is a “child” of LGBT Studies.

The curriculum, developed during the founding of the specialization in 2005, has been met with overwhelming approval from the LGBT community, and also the specialization’s active advisory board. It has been revised to respond to the developments in the field.

Influenced by several decades of theory and practice in the discipline of affirmative psychology, our curriculum is furthermore informed by the transformational spirit of LGBT liberation. We connect the revolutionary values of LGBT identity, love, and personhood to ancient values. By this, we mean Sappho’s devotion to women-centered spirituality and Socrates’ ability to risk his life in order to espouse the principles of “know thyself” and “the unexamined life is not worth living;” the bisexuality of Alfred Kinsey and the sacred “third gender” indigenous values of Native American Two Spirit people.

The Human Sexuality class, engineered to be the “gateway” class to the specialization, prepares you to be attuned to the various ways in which LGBT sexuality/spirituality/ethics/identity/experience is shaped and amplified. This then leads into the “core curriculum” which introduces you to LGBT History and Myth, LGBT Multicultural Counseling, LGBT Affirmative Therapy, and the Treatment of Families through the LGBT Affirmative Lens. In addition, identity workshops taught by our faculty, along with workshops on an Affirmative Approach to Addiction and LGBT Soul, round out the course of study. The curriculum prepares you to see clients with an affirmative tool-kit and attitude.

You leave the specialization in possession of a groundbreaking theory and practice to resolve real problems, and prepared to contribute to evolutionary consciousness, whether you are an LGBTQ person or a welcome ally.

LGBT Student Voices
Megan Benton“The Antioch University LGBT Specialization gave me the affirmative language and spiritual guidance I needed to evolve into my best self. It has guided my principals of healing through breaking down my own internalized phobia’s. The LGBT specialization changed my life by providing me historical, spiritual and tangible knowledge to support my journey as a Black, Queer, gender non-conforming, BOI (Born Obviously Incredible).” – Megan Benton
Andrew Oldershaw.jpg“The LGBT Specialization at Antioch University Los Angeles provided me with the introduction and insight to a new way of conceptualizing the heteronormative life experience, the origins and impact of queer identity, history and myth, a multicultural lens by which to encounter my community, and tools to address and empower our unique developmental strife, values, ecology, psychosocial dynamics, sexuality and gender expression in clinical application.” – Andrew Oldershaw

Bonnie Smalley“Being in the LGBT specialization at Antioch University is hands down the best decision I have ever made. I cannot really put words to my life-changing experience, but can honestly say that I am a better person, partner, family member, and therapist because of my powerful and soulful journey within the program. Although the specialization has helped me develop a full case load in my private practice (as an intern), it would have been worth every penny if decided to never see a client and enter into another career.” – Bonnie Smalley




“Through AULA’s LGBT specialization my world as I knew it was Anais Plasketestransformed. I slowly began to break down but more importantly break open to affirming and celebrating my own LGBTQ soul and authentic Self. This has made me a stronger activist and witness to each of my client’s unique journeys as they begin to uncover and integrate the many intersecting aspects of their identity.”
– Anais Plasketes




“The consciousness I developed about others and myself through the Antioch University program was far beyond my expectations and has significantly improved my work with LGBTQ youth and families as a high school counselor.”
– Jill Barker


Joey Juarez“The LGBT specialization not only assisted me in doing my own inner work to become a confident gay Latino man, but it also provided me with the skills to competently and affirmatively work with clients in the LGBTQ community.”
– Joe Juarez




“Antioch University’s LGBT Specialization provided a unique opportunity for me to be seen and heard as a gay man of Japanese American heritage. Instructors designed a curriculum and an affirmative model of teaching that inspires critical thinking, creativity, multiple perspectives, and the interrogation of ‘traditional’ theories that often serve to canonize heterosexist, racist, patriarchal, homophobic notions of relationship, sex, love, privilege, family, and one’s location and purpose in society. I cherish my journey in the LGBT Specialization and feel intensely proud to be able to pass on my experiences to others.” – Eric Arimoto


Alton Carswell“The LGBT Specialization program was immersive and empowering. It was through this program I was able to find my voice and express my uniqueness as a student, and an LGBT community member. This program has an exceptional staff that also contribute greatly to the community which forged the cornerstone for my professional development. I continuously use the techniques learned, and provide a space with my clients to assist in their own journeys of self affirmation, acceptance, and development.” – ­ Alton Carswell



“The LGBT specialization helped me find my voice as an African-American lesbian, and allowed me to let my narrative help other queer people of color find healing and peace.” – Dominique Elston




“As it stands, the current mental health care curriculums are incomplete without being supplemented by the LGBTQ affirmative lens that the LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology at Antioch is able to provide.” – Colin Stack


michael“I would not be the affirmative clinician I am today without all I learned in AULA’s LGBT specialization; the program’s dual focus on education as well the soulful exploration of the self gave me the tools I needed to give voice to my passion for social justice — both professionally as a therapist and personally as a gay-identified man.” – Michael Anthony-Nalepa

The Antioch University LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology Philosophy

LGBT-Affirmative Theory and Practice addresses the contradiction that, despite improvements in civil rights and increased visibility, psychological problems persist for many LGBT individuals at disproportionate rates, and resilience must be fostered to cope with such concerns. As many scholars have published research that documents that LGBT clients seek therapy in disproportionate numbers to their non-LGBT counterparts. Unfortunately, research also documents that most therapists are not receiving competent training and supervision in affirmative practice.

To address these political challenges in a hands-on way, the LGBT Specialization invites student clinician-advocates to become by learning specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills to work effectively with LGBTQQIA clients, communities, and their partners, families, friends, and loved ones. Students take classes in 17 specific units of LGBT affirmative training that are a part of the existing 90 units of master’s level coursework needed for the MA degree in clinical psychology or the 48 units for the MA in Psychological Studies. Clinical training opportunities in affirmative theory and practice are offered for clinical psychology students; some of these experiences are designed for students in our own specialization. Students are required to two take at least two quarters of psychotherapy (ideally from LGBTQ affirmative clinicians). Additional professional development experiences takes place outside of the classroom through LGBT Specialization Quarterly Dinners; Professional Conferences; and weekly “working groups” to help establish affirmative clinical settings.

To further amplify learning, the LGBT Specialization has founded two clinical training sites based in the LGBT Specialization’s affirmative ideology. “Antioch Alive” is a clinical training site associated with the non-profit HIV organization Being Alive, which offers therapy to the HIV-impacted community. “Colors” is an LGBT Youth Counseling Center. In addition, our “LGBT Community Action” program provides opportunities to create affirmative community-oriented programs (such as in the cases of Colors and Antioch Alive), and also to add to the body of research and scholarly literature in field LGBT-Affirmative Theory and Practice. Through the Alumni Professional Development Group, LGBT Specialization graduates are provided career opportunities to develop their own leadership skills as educators, practitioners, and activists.



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