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Counselors as LGBT Advocates

"Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.  But one must take it because it’s right."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.


"Students in counselor education programs must be made aware that effective interventions when working with oppressed and disenfranchised clients will be conducted outside of their offices and in the communities, exacting change at the sociopolitical level. Mental health practitioners who rely heavily on traditional counseling and psychological paradigms and theoretical orientations that emphasize weekly, face-to face sessions have discovered inadequacies when addressing modern society's marginalization of diverse groups and individuals."

-D'Andrea, Daniels, Green, Lewis, Bradley, Werner, Tyler / Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology

"Advocacy counseling is viewed as being as much a philosophy as a practice. To be an advocate in counseling requires strong beliefs about equity and speaking out on behalf of those who believe that they are powerless. The social and political justice way of thinking has produced advocacy counseling, a form of counseling that not only addresses the immediate issues of non-empowered clients, but changing the external environment of clients as well."

-Green, McCullom, Hayes


"The history of advocacy in counseling began with Frank Parsons and Carl Rogers, two leading theorists in the counseling profession who envisioned changes in social policy interventions at the individual and societal levels. The theme of counseling and social revolution began in 1971 when ACA was referred to as the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA). When APGA became the American Association for Counseling and Development (AACD), it endorsed advocacy as a major thrust through the AACD Position Paper on Human Rights (1987), which called for social change through personal, professional and political activity."

-Green, McCullom, Hayes


"Advocacy is increasingly seen as a core component of the professional school counselor’s role and ethical responsibility.  Drawing on advocacy competencies, the ASCA National Model sees school counselors as professionals that employ leadership, advocacy, and collaboration to effect systemic changes that facilitate a safe and supportive school environment, which in turn improves the academic, emotional, and social lives of their students. A school counselor social justice advocate is one that addresses educational inequities and differences in academic achievement that may be grounded in issues of race/ethnicity, gender, class, disability status, and sexual orientation, and that may prevent many students from maximizing their academic, social, and personal potential."

-Markus Bidell




Advocacy Counseling Competencies

Advocacy Counseling & Social Justice Framework

School Counselors & Social Justice Advocacy for LGBTQ Students


Ways to Advocate




Provide core conditions of
--Unconditional Positive Regard
Maintain strict confidentiality, unless duty to warn applies

Help students identify resources and barriers, personal and institutional

Be knowledgeable
--Know the law
--Know students’ rights
--Know the school’s responsibilities
Build your competence
--Attend workshops and trainings
--Read research, relevant publications (including ASCA journal and magazine)
Stay informed
--Community resources (BAGSLY, PFLAG)
--Southern Poverty Law Center
--Teaching Tolerance (free resources)
--What are other schools doing?
--GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
Build leadership of students who are stepping out (starting a GSA)
Do your own work on your dissonance
Know your ethical responsibility to students (ACA, ALCA, ASCA, ALSCA)




Intervene when you hear derogatory comments
Listen/observe closely school culture re: LGBT
Send relevant/pertinent articles and news stories to principal, superintendent, etc.
Display LGBT supportive items in your office such as stickers, books, posters
Conduct a campus climate survey (free at GLSEN and Safe Schools Coalition)
Have Courageous Conversations
--Let your principal know where you stand
--Build a network of allies with faculty and staff – step out
--Talk to students, ask them their thoughts
--ask questions

Integrate LGBT info into training sessions for student leaders (SGA, Peer Helpers, Heritage Panel)
Create a Safe Space Network (GLSEN)
Do an LGBT-themed program for your faculty in your school
Share your knowledge and resources with colleagues
Support Gay/Straight Alliance (GSAs)
Use inclusive language
Bring up school policy issue and provide information to administrators
Have your own support network and resources
Build a network of other school counselors in the area (know what other schools are doing)




Advocate for public policy change
--Enumerated anti-bullying policies
--Inclusive EEOC statements
Provide sessions at workshops/conferences
Serve as a leader in a professional org. that advocates for LGBT youth
Tell people what you are doing and why!!
Develop and share educational materials
Take part in community events (Gay Pride Parade, Film Festivals, Day of Silence, National Coming Out Day)
Actively participate in and support professional and community organizations
--ALGBTICAL (Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama)
--Alabama Safe Schools Coalition
--BAGSLY (Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight, Lesbian Youth)
--PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays)
--Human Rights Campaign
--Equality Alabama
List involvement on your resume/website
Raise awareness in the profession and community

(From Angela Stowe, 2013 and ACA Advocacy Model by Ratts, Toporek, & Lewis, 2010)


Advocacy Model



R.M. Kidder's Elements of Moral Courage:






Elements of Advocacy Counseling:

--Moral & Spiritual Principles



Moral Principles Underlying ACA Code of Ethics:

--Justice (fairness)
--Beneficence (doing good)
--Nonmaleficence (doing no harm)
--Respect for autonomy



Based on concepts of justice and reciprocity of rights



Stage 1. Obedience & punishment

Stage 2. Naïve hedonistic & instrumental orientation



Stage 3. “Good boy/nice girl” morality

Stage 4. “Law and order” orientation 



Stage 5. Social contract orientation

Democratically agreed upon principles and laws, reflecting basic human rights and liberty; e.g., the purpose of laws is to preserve human rights


Stage 6. Universal ethical principle orientation

Self-chosen ethical principles based on concepts reflecting equality of human rights, the Golden Rule (or similar religious teachings), respect for the dignity of each human being




Based on concepts of care and responsibility


Stage 1. Orientation to self

Stage 2. Orientation to others

Stage 3. Orientation to self and others




Postmodernist perspective on theories related to counseling (2006)


“A significant new role for theories in the counseling process is as narrative structures that aid the counselor in the rhetorical process of restoring a client’s experience for the purpose of healing."


(From Glenda R. Elliott, Ph.D., LPC, Advocacy Counseling: Moral and Spiritual Perspectives. ALCA Fall Conference, November, 2013.)


Advocacy Resources

Armstrong, K. (2010). Twelve steps to a compassionate life. New York: Anchor Books.

Chen-Hayes, S. F. (2000). Social justice advocacy with lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered
persons. In J. Lewis & L. Bradley (Eds.), Advocacy in counseling: Counselors, clients, & community
(pp. 89-97). Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services.

Dillon, F. R., Worthington, R. L., Savoy, H. B., Rooney, S. C., Becker-Schutte, A., & Guerra, R. M., (2004). On becoming allies: A qualitative study of lesbian-, gay-, and bisexual-affirming counselor training. Counselor Education & Supervision, 43(3), 162-178.

Elliott, G. R. (2005). Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues in counselor education and supervision:
A call to advocacy. Alabama Counseling Association Journal, 31(2), 36-43.

Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of faith: The psychology of human development and the quest for meaning.
New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Hansen, J. T. (2006). Counseling theories within a postmodernist epistemology: New roles for theories in
counseling practice. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(3), 291-297.

Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice.
New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kidder, R. M. (2006). Moral courage. New York: Harper Collins.

Kiselica, M. S. & Robinson, M. (2001). Bringing advocacy counseling to life: The history, issues, and human dramas of social justice work in counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 79, 387-397.

Lewis, J. & Bradley, L. (Eds.) (2000). Advocacy counseling: Counselors, clients, & community.
Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services.

Ratts, M. J., Toporek, R. L., & Lewis, J. A. (2010). ACA advocacy competencies: A social justice
framework for counselors. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Stone, C. B. (2003). Counselors as advocates for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth: A call for
equity and action. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 31, 143-155.

Ward, C. C. (2006, April). Advocacy and professional counseling: An interview with Jane Myers.
Counseling Today, 16-17, 49.

(From Glenda R. Elliott, Ph.D., LPC and Angela M. Stowe, Ph.D., LPC. Advocacy Counseling: Moral and Spiritual Perspectives. ALCA Fall Conference, November, 2013.)



School Advocacy Resources


Alabama Safe Schools Coalition
Safe Schools Coalition
Respect for All Project
Teaching Tolerance
Groundspark Films
Straightlaced Premiere
Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth
Gays & Lesbians In Your Schools
P.E.R.S.O.N. Project
Rainbow Rumpus
UNCCH: Diversity in the College Classroom
Strategies for Inclusive Teaching
Working With Diverse Students
Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education
Education Reform: Lesson Plans
LGBT School Resources
Web Quest: Multicultural Lesson Plans
Advocates for Youth: LGBT Resources
LGBT People & Events: Classroom Resources
Web Quest: Equality for All
Web Quest: Culturally Relevant Teaching
Web Quest: Diversity Lessons
Web Quest: Cultural Diversity

Web Quest Because They Don't Look Like You
Web Quest: LGBT Issues in Our  Literature & Our Lives
LGBT Web Quest: Religion & Culture
Web Quest: Ethic Issues & Global Studies
Web Quest: ABCs of Diversity & Multicultural Resources

Web Quest: Intro to Bullying
Web Quest: Bullying
Librarians Internet  Index: Bullying, Violence & Safety
Web Quest: Bye Bye Bullying
Web Quest: English Curriculum Bullying Resources
Alternative Literature Lesson Plans
All Things Queer: School Resources
Web Quest: No Bullying Proposal
Web Quest: Bullying Resources
Hip Teacher
Caucus on Social Theory & Art Education
Web Quest: Sociology of Discrimination
Web Quest: Show Me Science

SIECUS Mini Book: Talk About Sex
Understanding Anti-Gay Violence and Harassment in Schools




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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama