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Spotlight on Walden // Jun 26, 2014

Changing Counseling for the LGBT Community

For Jeff Lubsen, the negative messages LGBT people hear from some counselors and medical professionals are all too familiar. As an Iowa teen in the 1980s, he’d also been told that his life would be miserable because he is gay. Now, Lubsen is working to change the message and the healthcare provided to people of all sexual identities.

The Denver licensed professional counselor and Walden University PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision student is a founder of the Healthcare Guild, a national network offering information and training to mental and medical healthcare professionals who work with the LGBT community. The organization also seeks to create a dialogue and connection with cultural and religious groups and support LGBT people struggling with family issues. With a mission to make affirming and culturally competent healthcare available to sexual and gender minorities, the Healthcare Guild builds on a model Lubsen had seen in Salt Lake City and replicated in Kansas City.

“There are different dynamics in different communities, but a lot of the problems LGBT people face are related to stress and shame. A supportive environment contributes to an overall reduction of stress. People are grateful to be with someone who isn’t trying to judge or demonize them or impose their own values,” Lubsen says. “Therapists need to recognize their own biases and world views, and how they transfer these issues.”

Many in the profession appear to agree. Lubsen’s Therapists Guild of Kansas City attracted more than 150 members, and the Healthcare Guild has built a cumulative affiliated membership of over 1,000 in less than two years. Lubsen has also successfully launched a local chapter in Denver.

Noting that most of the mental and medical healthcare providers joining the Healthcare Guild are not LGBT themselves, Lubsen says, “People have come together to make change. Prejudice is prejudice; it’s everyone’s issue. Members are connecting, doing the training, and encouraging others to think about the issues. Since we started, attitudes and acceptance have changed.”

Lubsen and the Healthcare Guild are marking the progress and spreading the word about providing affirming care by participating in LGBT Pride celebrations in June. He says, “Pride Month is a time to create awareness on a national and community level and to support the LGBT community.”

Still, he sees more work ahead for the Healthcare Guild, which includes advocacy as part of its mission. Lubsen explains that many hospitals lag in incorporating nondiscriminatory language in their hiring and patient visitation policies, as well as in offering training in culturally competent care. There’s also the challenge of continuing the state-by-state transition to legalizing same-sex marriage, which Lubsen considers a basic human right contributing to the well-being of LGBT people.

Meanwhile, Lubsen continues to develop the counseling career he began after earning his MS in Mental Health Counseling from Walden in 2012. In addition to starting his own psychotherapy practice, he’s beginning his doctoral dissertation and a faculty position with Argosy University. He has also published and presented with Walden faculty members and educated master’s degree students at a recent academic residency about the need for affirming healthcare providers. Lubsen says, “Real opportunities have come about through my Walden education.”

Jeff Lubsen has been named one of Laureate Education’s 2014 Here For Good Ambassadors. Here For Good honors students, graduates and faculty from the Laureate International Universities network who have created or are leading projects that drive social and economic progress in their countries.  To learn more about this year’s Here for Good ambassadors, visit