This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Counseling Competency with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients: Perceptions of Counseling Graduate Students




Graham, Stephanie

Type of Degree



Counseling Psychology


The purpose of this dissertation was to examine graduate counseling students’ self-perceived counseling competency with lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) clients using the Sexual Orientation Counselor Competency Scale (SOCCS; Bidell, 2005). In addition, participants’ self-perceived competency levels were examined across gender, degree program (counselor education, counseling psychology), training level (master’s, doctoral), additional training experiences, and the number of LGBidentified clients seen in practica. A secondary purpose of this study was to explore participants’ concerns regarding their development of counseling competency with LGB clients, as well as to identify life experiences (i.e., personal and professional) that have been beneficial in preparation to counsel LGB clients using qualitative methods. The sample included two hundred and thirty-five graduate students enrolled in counselor education and counseling psychology programs in the United States. vi Simple linear regressions and mixed ANOVAs were used to statistically analyze the quantitative data. Emergent coding was used to describe the participants’ responses to the three qualitative questions. The results of this study suggested that participants’ felt moderately competent in counseling LGB clients when assessed on the SOCCS. When looking across the SOCCS subscales of knowledge, skills, and awareness, they felt the least competent in their skills and most competent in their awareness of LGB issues. Although gender differences were not found, significant differences were found when examining self-perceived competency levels across program level (i.e., doctoral-level participants had greater competency levels) and program type. (i.e., counseling psychology students had greater competency levels). A significant relationship was also found between attendance at a workshop dedicated to counseling LGB clients and a general training session on LGB issues and self-perceived competency levels, suggesting that additional training influenced participants’ overall perceived competency, as well as on the specific knowledge, skills, and awareness competencies. Moreover, the number of LGB clients seen in therapy was significantly related to self-perceived competency levels, with participants who had worked with zero clients having lower scores on the knowledge, skills, and awareness subscales than all other participants. Finally, as hypothesized, the number of LGB clients seen in therapy predicted self-perceived competency levels and accounted for a significant amount of the variance in overall self-perceived competency levels, as well as on the skills subscale. The qualitative results supported the above findings, particularly related to the importance of working with LGB clients on participants’ development vii of self-perceived counseling competency with LGB clients, as well as the need for additional training on working with LGB clients in their current training programs.