Sharon Rostosky and Ellen Riggle: How Same-Sex Couples Can Actively Manage Stress

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, Susan Herman, Developmental Editor and consultant for APA Books, spoke with Sharon S. Rostosky and Ellen D. B. Riggle, professors at University of Kentucky. APA Books published Rostosky & Riggle’s book Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community in early 2015.

Note: The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and should not be taken to represent the official views or policies of the American Psychological Association.

 

Rostosky headshot

Sharon S. Rostosky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  She joined the counseling psychology program at the University of Kentucky in 1999, where she is currently a professor and director of training.  Her research, published in more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented in numerous workshops for professional and general audiences, focuses on minority stress and well-being in individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer and in same-sex couples.

Riggle

Ellen D. B. Riggle, PhD, is a professor in the departments of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Kentucky.  She is the coeditor of Sexual Identity on the Job and Gays and Lesbians in the Democratic Process.  She has published more than 60 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and books.

 

More information about the work of Dr. Riggle and Dr. Rostosky can be found on their website: www.prismresearch.org 

SH: Happy Together was released a few months shy of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges) that all 50 states in the USA must license and recognize same-sex marriages. What other aspects of the legal landscape have changed since early 2015 regarding same-sex couples?

SR & ER: It’s true that same-sex marriages are legally recognized in all 50 states now. However, there has been an increase in the number of states introducing and passing so-called “religious freedom” laws.  The way that many of these laws are worded effectively gives businesses and institutions the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT individuals and eliminates any legal recourse by the targets of discrimination.

Some states have also introduced legislation that would allow government officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to or perform marriages for same-sex couples.

Probably the most important aspect of the legal landscape are the things that haven’t changed.  For example, it is still legal in the majority of states to discriminate against LGBT people in jobs, services, and housing.  Marriage equality itself does not protect same-sex couples or LGBT individuals from discrimination.

Marriage equality also has not automatically led to equal parental rights for same-sex couples in all states.  Parental rights are still being questioned in many jurisdictions upon the birth or adoption of a child by same-sex couples.

SH: It’s common to hear about things that put stress on couples, like economic uncertainty, the high cost of child care, or addiction to smartphones and social media. Same-sex and different-sex couples, presumably, deal with all these same issues. What are some distinct concerns touching same-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Our research and that of other scholars shows that public debates surrounding anti-LGBT laws increase minority stress.  The current political environment has many uncertainties for same-sex couples and there is a real fear that the progress of LGBT rights will be halted and that the protections enacted in the past few years may be repealed.  This anxiety puts increased stress on couples that they need to constructively manage.

We wrote Happy Together specifically to help couples develop their strengths to deal with this type of environmental stress.

Because same-sex relationships are still stigmatized, same-sex couples are more likely to experience rejection from members of their family of origin. Imagine not having social support from your family, plus having to make the extra effort to set up appropriate boundaries with one or more especially prejudiced family members.

Same-sex couples may also have to expend more time and energy finding community support than different-sex couples.  For instance, same-sex couples may have to work harder to find an LGBTQ-affirmative religious or spiritual community, or an affirmative health service provider.

Same-sex couples also have to negotiate how “out” each partner will be in their respective workplaces, especially if one or both couple members 

lack basic workplace protections like inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Same-sex couples who are parents worry about how their children and family will be treated by neighbors and school personnel.  These couples tend to spend more time than other parents advocating at their children’s school.

When they’re also subjected to prejudice based on racial identities, immigration status, economic disadvantage, disability, etc., same-sex couples can face significant stress.  What we have learned in our research, however, is that despite these challenges, same-sex couples can and do create enduring and satisfying relationships.

SH: In your clinical work, do you see particular strengths emerging from same-sex couple relationships that you might not see as often with different-sex couples? 

SR & ER: Same-sex couples often attribute their relationship satisfaction and longevity to their ability to create meaning and purpose out of their negative experiences.  For instance, same-sex couples might draw on their experience to understand and empathize with other marginalized groups and engage in social activism. Same-sex couples often create “families of choice” and rely on these families for social support, as well as provide support for others.

In our many interviews with same-sex couples over the years, we have witnessed how they cope by using humor and expressing appreciation for their similarities and differences.

We’ve also found that same-sex couples are more likely than different-sex couples to equally share responsibility for maintaining their relationship, by actively talking through and negotiating differences. We think this is because, without strict gender roles, same-sex couples feel more free to write their own relationship scripts.

SH: In addition to seeking out LGBTQ-affirming community resources and helping professionals, what can same-sex couples do to lower their stress levels and build themselves up? happy together

SR & ER: For people who like to read, we of course recommend our books. We have translated 15 years of basic research into two accessible books. Our first one, A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-being, is a resource for recognizing and using LGBTQ identity strengths. The second book, Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community, focuses on helping same-sex couples deal with minority stress. Both books are full of conversation starters and exercises.

One exercise in A Positive View of LGBTQ presents a “starter list” of self-care activities for readers to consider and build upon.

One activity in Happy Together guides couples to reflect on times when they anticipate rejection at work and then discuss how that fear affects their couple relationship. We give examples about how to take anxious thoughts and construct more helpful messages that can help them cope.

When we talk to same-sex couples who have been together 25, 35, 45 years, they tell us that one ‘secret to their success’ as a couple was building on their shared values and engaging in experiences that kept them learning and growing together. Shared values may involve recreational activities, spiritual/religious/educational pursuits, and commitments to making the world a more compassionate and supportive place through artistic expression, volunteerism, or community organizing.

Making a commitment to social change and social action is another powerful way to counter stress. We’ve met couples who engage in social activism on behalf of other oppressed minorities, women, people with AIDS, homeless youth, animals, the environment, food security—and that type of engagement is part of what makes their relationship flourish.

A good piece of advice for same-sex couples (and for anyone) doing social justice activism is to balance it with self-care and couple-care.  Couples must keep their relationship healthy and strong because, as Dr. Glenda Russell reminds us, we must take the long view or a “movement perspective” when it comes to bringing about social change.

 

 

 

 

Open Pages: Ethics in LGBTQ Psychology

APA Books Open Pages is an ongoing series in which we share interesting tidbits from current & upcoming books. Find the full list by browsing the Open Pages tag. APA Books recently published Teaching LGBTQ Psychology: Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice, edited by Theodore R. Burnes and Jeanne L. Stanley. The excerpt below comes from Chapter 4: Teaching Ethics in Relation to LGBTQ Issues in Psychology.

Conflict between students’ personal beliefs and actions or inactions in their training and client care within their educational institutions have escalated into legal disputes. Educators can use examples as teaching tools in class for discussing and working through such conundrums. Students may also learn about and discuss recent court cases in which students sued their educational institutions after they were dismissed from their programs for not meeting the program’s requirements for becoming multiculturally-competent providers where LGBTQ individuals are involved (Hancock, 2014). Three such cases, all involving MHPs [mental health professionals]-in-training, involve key areas of these debates: Ward v. Wilbanks, 2010; Ward v. Polite, 2012; and Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 2010. These court cases are relevant for teaching MHPs and should be included in coursework because they give a view of how legal and ethical concerns can collide in regard to the competency of MHPs when working with LGBTQ individuals.

In the two Ward cases, Ms. Ward was a graduate student in the counseling master’s program at Eastern Michigan State University. After being assigned a gay male client who had previously received counseling regarding his same-sex relationship, Ward asked her supervisor whether she could refer the client because she could not support his same-sex behavior. Ward argued that she followed the ethical guidelines by referring a client she felt she could not support. The program countered that Ward chose to follow her personal beliefs that were discriminatory in practice and, therefore, inconsistent with the requirements of the program and the profession (Haldeman & Rasbury, 2014). The program offered her the following choices: to take part in a remedial program, voluntarily leave the program, or request a formal hearing. Ward chose the formal hearing and was dismissed from the program. After suing the university and after two court cases, an out-of-court settlement agreement was reached between and the student and the university.

The Keeton case involved a graduate student in counseling from Augusta State University. In her courses, Ms. Keeton asserted that if she were to work with LGBTQ clients, she would express her views of the immoralities of their same-sex behavior and then either use SOCE or refer the client to a practitioner who practiced SOCE to rectify the clients’ behavior. The program faculty expressed their concern to the student and asked her to complete a remediation program because of the deficits in her multicultural competency in working with LGBTQ clients. She refused remediation and then sued, claiming that the remediation plan violated her First Amendment rights. The court rejected Keeton’s claim on the grounds that the program did not ask her to alter her personal religious beliefs but to not use her beliefs to discriminate against clients. Keeton’s proposed actions were in direct conflict with the ACA Ethics Code because she planned to not only impose her values on clients but also to discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.

. . .

The court in the Keeton case cited the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, finding in favor of the educational institution, citing “if there is a legitimate educational concern involved, free speech can be regulated by the educational institution” (Hancock, 2014, p. 6). Students’ personal values as counselors may not outweigh their ethical obligations to the client, and the program, therefore, has to intervene to prevent harm to the client (Hancock, 2014). Bieschke and Mintz (2012) aptly argued that the core issue in these cases is one of the competences of the trainee in following the ethical requirements of their profession. Although such cases have not yet specifically involved psychologists or psychologists-in-training, similar cases are likely to follow.

 

References cited in this passage

Bieschke, K. J., & Mintz, L. B. (2012). Counseling psychology model training values statement addressing diversity: History, current use, and future directions. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6, 196<en>203. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030810

Haldeman, D. C., & Rasbury, R. L. (2014). Multicultural training and student beliefs in cultural context. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 289<en>292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000076

Hancock, K. (2014). Student beliefs, multiculturalism, and client welfare. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1, 4<en>9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000021

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley, 733 F. Supp. 2d 1368 (S.D. Ga. 2010).

Ward v. Polite, 667 F.3d 727 (6th Cir. 2012).

Ward v. Wilbanks, No. 09-11237 (E.D. Mich. 2010).

 

January Releases from APA Books!

adlerianAdlerian Psychotherapy 

Jon Carlson and Matt Englar-Carlson

Adlerian Psychotherapy provides an introduction and overview of the theory, history, research, and practice of this person-centered approach. In Adler’s theory, all behavior has social meaning, and the socio-cultural context of a person’s life is a driving influence on their mental health and life experiences. The task of counseling and psychotherapy is one of encouraging the client to develop social interest—a sense of belonging to and participating in the common good. The authors present a modern interpretation of Adlerian psychotherapy that is consistent with today’s short-term therapeutic approaches and can be used with individuals, couples, and families.

 

handbook comparative psych APA Handbook of Comparative Psychology

Vol. 1: Basic Concepts, Methods, Neural Substrate, and Behavior

Vol. 2: Perception, Learning, and Cognition

Editor-in-Chief Josep Call

Comparative psychology is the scientific study of animal cognition and behavior from an evolutionary perspective. This two-volume handbook presents the different aspects of comparative psychology—behavior, cognition, learning, and neurophysiology—in a balanced and exhaustive manner.

There are 80 chapters across the set, divided into nine parts. History and Methods constitute the first two parts of the handbook. Key events and basic questions (and controversies) that have shaped the field as well as the methods used to make those questions empirically tractable are presented here. The next three parts—Adaptation/Evolution, Genes/Hormones, and Neural Substrate—present the conceptual foundations for understanding the genesis of behavior and cognition, both from a phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspective. Finally, the next four parts (Behavior, Perception/Attention, Learning/Motivation, and Cognition/Emotion) are devoted to the core research in comparative psychology today.

 

generalized anxiety Emotion-Focused Therapy for Generalized Anxiety

Jeanne C. Watson and Leslie S. Greenberg

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), characterized by near-constant distress, is resistant to many treatments. However, master therapists Jeanne Watson and Leslie Greenberg argue that emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is uniquely capable of targeting the maladaptive emotional schemes that underlie GAD and promoting long-term change. In this detailed guide, they walk readers through the stages of EFT and describe techniques that therapists can use to build healing therapeutic relationships with their clients, address deep-rooted emotional pain, transform unhealthy coping mechanisms, and develop self-soothing strategies. Vivid case transcripts illustrate these methods being applied in actual practice.

 

teaching lgbtq Teaching LGBTQ Psychology

Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice

Theodore R. Burnes and Jeanne L. Stanley

The goal of all instructional environments is to be a safe place to engage in exploration and active learning. How instructors approach LGBTQ identities is critical for learning and performance in all students, whether or not the primary subject matter is sexual orientation and gender diversity. This book is a theoretical and practical guide for individuals who teach and train about LGBTQ psychology in diverse groups and settings.

September Releases From APA Books!

adults with adhdNEW FROM APA LIFETOOLS®

When an Adult You Love Has ADHD 

Professional Advice for Parents, Partners, and Siblings

by Russell A. Barkley, PhD

In this book ADHD expert Russell Barkley explains the science behind ADHD and how you can tell if your spouse, partner, friend, adult child, or sibling may have it. He shows how to guide your loved one toward the right treatment, and what to do if he or she doesn’t want treatment. Adults with ADHD can be successful, achieve their goals, and live out big dreams—and you can help. You can set boundaries to manage your own emotional and financial stress, too. Here you will learn practical steps for helping your loved one accept and manage their disorder, and pursue paths in life where ADHD might not pose such a big problem.

 

community psychAPA Handbook of Community Psychology

Volume 1: Theoretical Foundations, Core Concepts, and Emerging Challenges

Volume 2: Methods for Community Research and Action for Diverse Groups and Issues

Editors-in-Chief Meg A. Bond, Irma Serrano-García, and Christopher B. Keys

This two-volume handbook summarizes and makes sense of exciting intellectual developments in the field of community psychology. As a discipline that is considered a half-century old in the United States, community psychology has grown in the sophistication and reach of theories and research. Reviewing the chapters of the APA Handbook of Community Psychology, the reader will readily notice several themes emerge: Community psychology’s ideas are becoming increasingly elaborated; its theory, research and interventions more situated; and its reach in both thought and action, more expansive. Ideas that may have seemed much simpler when first proposed—for example, community, prevention, and empowerment—have come to pose challenges, contradictions, and opportunities initially unspecified and perhaps unimagined.

 

career pathsCareer Paths in Psychology

Where Your Degree Can Take You

THIRD EDITION

Edited by Robert J. Sternberg

Now in its third edition, this bestselling volume has set the standard for students seeking to find an exciting career in psychology. Its comprehensive coverage spans more careers than ever, with the vast majority of chapters new to this edition. An advanced degree in psychology offers an extremely wide range of rewarding and well-compensated career opportunities. Amidst all the choices, this book will help future psychologists find their optimal career path. The chapters describe 30 exciting graduate-level careers in academia, clinical and counseling psychology, and specialized settings such as for-profit businesses, nonprofits, the military, and schools.

 

sexual orientation and gender diversityHandbook of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Counseling and Psychotherapy

Edited by Kurt A. DeBord, Ann R. Fischer, Kathleen J. Bieschke, and Ruperto M. Perez

This timely volume explores the unique challenges faced by SM and TGNC clients today.  Experts in the field examine how the concepts of gender and sexual orientation are both socioculturally-constructed and can be informed by biologically-focused research, thus setting the stage for flexible, affirmative mental health services.  Chapters cover a range of practice-focused as well as theory-based topics, including complexity in identity, minority stress, and stigma management.  With concise summaries of research findings and detailed case studies, contributors provide an intersectional understanding of how practitioners can work within rapidly-changing political and legal contexts to uncover and affirm clients’ multiple social identities, and build resilience.

 

supervision competency-basedSupervision Essentials for the Practice of Competency-Based Supervision

by Carol A. Falender and Edward P. Shafranske

This concise text describes a trans-theoretical approach that has been the gold standard in supervisory practice for nearly two decades.  The authors show readers how to identify, assess, and track the knowledge, specific skills, broad attitudes, and human values that undergird a series of professional competencies spanning the breadth of clinical practice.  Case examples illuminate the supervisory give-and-take as trainees develop competence in areas such as professional values, sensitivity to individual and cultural differences, ethical and legal standards, self-care, scientific knowledge and methods, applying evidence-based practice, and more.  From practicum, to internship and general practice, the competency-based approach offers clear training goals that organize and focus the supervisor’s attention where it’s needed most.

August Releases from APA Books!

 

affirmative counselingAffirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients

Edited by Anneliese A. Singh and lore m. dickey

Fewer than 30% of psychologists report familiarity with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) clients’ needs, which indicates a large gap in knowledge, skill, and competence in this area of practice. This timely volume provides mental health practitioners with theory-driven strategies for affirmative practice with TGNC clients of different ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious backgrounds. Affirmative care entails a collaborative, client-guided partnership in which clinicians advocate for the client’s needs. Chapters cover an array of complex issues, including ethical and legal concerns, working with trauma survivors, and interdisciplinary care.

 

Conducting a Culturally Informed Neuropsychological Evaluationneuropsych assessment

by Daryl Fujii

When conducting a neuropsychological evaluation, the clinician must develop a contextual knowledge base to fully understand a client’s current functioning. Doing so can be especially challenging when the client’s cultural background differs from that of the evaluator. This book helps neuropsychologists enhance their cultural competency, avoid biased assessments, and optimize outcomes for culturally different clients. The author describes strategies for improving communication, selecting valid tests, interpreting results, estimating premorbid functioning, working with translators, and making effective treatment recommendations.

 

 

Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomniainsomnia

by Jason C. Ong

Insomnia is a pervasive issue for many adults that is difficult to remedy with existing treatments. This clinical guide presents mindfulness based therapy for insomnia (MBTI)—an innovative group intervention that can reduce insomnia symptoms. Combining principles from mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, MBTI helps participants create meaningful, long-term changes in their thoughts and behaviors about sleep. This book reviews new research on MBTI and teaches mental health professionals how to integrate it into their own practices.

 

 

 

psych 101 half Psychology 101½

The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia, SECOND EDITION

by Robert J. Sternberg

In this second edition of his popular Psychology 101½, eminent psychologist Robert J. Sternberg updates and extends a trove of wisdom gleaned from decades of experience in various academic settings and leadership positions. In his signature straightforward, intellectually honest, and pragmatic style, he imparts life lessons for building a successful and gratifying career. This revision features lessons in five basic categories: identity and integrity, interpersonal relationships, institutions and academia, problems and tasks, and job and career. Recent developments in the field are covered, and new questions at the end of each lesson prompt reader self-reflection. Valuable to academic psychologists at any level, this book will be especially prized by graduate students, post-doctorates, and early-career professors.

 

young eyewitnessThe Young Eyewitness

How Well Do Children and Adolescents Describe and Identify Perpetrators?

by Joanna Pozzulo

This book summarizes the research on how well children can describe an event and perpetrator (which is a recall task) and how well they can identify the perpetrator in person or in photographs (which is a recognition task). Joanna Pozzulo shows that although children may be less advanced in these skills than adults, they nonetheless can provide invaluable evidence. She interprets the research in light of developmental theories and notes practical implications for forensic investigations. In particular, the chapters highlight interviewing techniques to facilitate accurate recall and lineup techniques to facilitate accurate recognition. This book is an essential resource for all forensic investigators.

 

transcendent mindTranscendent Mind

Rethinking the Science of Consciousness                         

by Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge

Everyone knows that consciousness resides in the brain. Or does it? In this book, Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge utilize findings from quantum mechanics, special relativity, philosophy, and paranormal psychology to build a rigorous, scientific investigation into the origins and nature of human consciousness. Along the way, they examine the scientific literature on concepts such as mediumship, out-of-body and near-death experiences, telekinesis, “apparent” vs. “deep time,” and mind-to-mind communication, and introduce eye-opening ideas about our shared reality. The result is a revelatory tour of the “post-materialist” world—and a roadmap for consciousness research in the twenty-first century.