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.

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.

 

Anneliese Singh and lore dickey: On Trans-Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice

This is the latest in a series of interviews with APA Books authors. For this interview, David Becker, an APA Books Development Editor, talked with Anneliese Singh of the University of Georgia and lore dickey of Northern Arizona University.

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.

Anneliese Singh

Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia and co-founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and Trans Resilience Project. Her work is centered on studying and strengthening the resilience of TGNC people, particularly TGNC youth and people of color.

 

lore dickey

lore m. dickey, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Doctoral Training Director in the Department of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University. His research focuses on understanding the transgender experience, which includes studying sexual identity development and nonsuicidal self-injury.

 

Together, Drs. Singh and dickey cochaired the APA task force that developed the Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People. The goal of these guidelines is to enhance psychologists’ cultural competence and help them provide trans-affirmative care, which is characterized by awareness, respect, and support of TGNC people’s identities and life experiences. Their latest book, Affirmative Counseling and Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients, expands on those guidelines, offering helpful advice and strategies for providing trans-affirmative care to TGNC clients.

 

What is affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) clients? How does it differ from other common approaches with these populations?

Anneliese: This is a great question that often comes up for mental health practitioners. They may want to do the “right thing” when working with trans people, but are not quite sure how to do that—so lore and I defined affirming transgender counseling and psychological practice in the Introduction to our book as practice that is culturally relevant and responsive to TGNC clients and their multiple social identities, addresses the influence of social inequities on the lives of TGNC clients, enhances TGNC client resilience and coping, advocates to reduce systemic barriers to TGNC mental and physical health, and leverages TGNC client strengths. (Singh & dickey, 2017, p. 4)

We wanted to define it so that the roles of psychologists involve being social change agents who make sure the settings and societies in which they work are trans-affirmative, as well as emphasizing the importance of supporting the development of trans resilience and affirming all the social identities that trans people have (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, disability, spirituality/religion).

What are the most common errors that mental health practitioners make, or misconceptions they might have, when working with TGNC clients?

lore: There are several errors that a mental health provider might make. The first is assuming that a person has a binary gender identity. The second is making the assumption that a person wants medical treatment, especially gender affirmation surgeries. Another mistake is using the wrong name or pronoun. When this happens, the provider should admit the mistake. This signals to the client that the provider realizes they used the wrong name or pronoun, and takes the pressure off of the client as they do not need to correct the provider.

Some TGNC people might be reluctant to enter into therapy for fear of being pathologized or misunderstood. What can a mental health practitioner do to create a safe and welcoming environment for an anxious TGNC client in the first session?

Anneliese: Yes—this is a very common experience trans people have due to the history that the counseling and psychological field has had of pathologizing trans identities. From diagnosis and gatekeeping (e.g., writing referral letters for hormones and requiring excessive control over the transition process) to experiencing discrimination within counseling sessions and the challenges of accessing mental healthcare (e.g., lack of insurance, finding a trans-affirmative provider), many trans people are anxious about what they may experience with a provider. Trans communities are very strong and connected, so there are often also stories of bad experiences with mental health providers that may be known within the community as well. The best thing a mental health practitioner can do is to get out into the community, participate in community events, learn from trans community organizers and activists about what is most needed in their communities and the common issues they face. The key here is to learn much as you can about how to create safe and welcoming environments.

Next, during the first client contact, explain the approach to trans-affirmative counseling you use and any other considerations a client should be aware of that you require (e.g., number of sessions). During my first contact with clients who need a letter of referral for hormones, I emphasize that my counseling approach is to assist them in accessing the care that they want, and one session is usually enough for just a letter; however, they may want to engage in more sessions to support them during their medical and social transition, and that is something we can talk about along the way. I also emphasize that my role is to advocate for them along the way, and that exploring internalized trans-negativity and multiple identities from an empowerment perspective are important aspects of how I work with clients. It is also important for me to tell clients why I am asking certain questions, instead of just gathering typical assessment data. Because the community has experienced so much trauma, this approach is critical to developing an atmosphere of trust and to build rapport. From the first contact, I also share my own

gender pronouns and name that I want people to use when referring to me. I do this with cisgender clients too.

You chose the photos that are featured on the book’s cover because they are TGNC affirming, and you have noted that media portrayals of TGNC people can often be inaccurate or pathologizing. What portrayals did you want to avoid, and why are they problematic? Are there any particularly prevalent tropes or stereotypes that you have noticed?

lore: As with most anything the media uses to tell a story, they prefer the most sensational images—that is what sells papers. The images that don’t tell the sensational stories are ones that show trans people who have ordinary lives. When the only images you see of trans people are those of White people—this is a problem. When trans woman are hypersexualized—this is a problem. When nonbinary individuals are reported to be confused about their identity—this a problem. When the only news you see about trans men are images of a pregnant person—this is a problem. We worked with a renowned photographer to find images that portray “everyday” trans people.

Both of you cochaired the task force that developed APA’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People. What was that experience like, and how did it influence your book?

Anneliese: Cochairing the APA trans guidelines was an interesting experience! It was important to make sure we added racial/ethnic and gender diversity amongst our 10-person task force, as well as having a variety of disciplines represented within counseling and psychology (e.g., practitioners, researchers). We consulted with a wonderful team of trans community organizers and activists along the way in the development of the text as well. All of these things had an influence on the text, as we wanted it to have a very intersectional and practice-based approach.

In terms of how the text differs from the guidelines, we were restricted in the guidelines development process from highlighting social justice and advocacy as much as we would have liked to do based on our own personal ways of practicing and engaging in research. Therefore, the book is very much informed by research, but it is also informed by the calls to our field that trans community organizers and activists have issued. The role of psychologists as social change agents is much more centralized in the book. We also had a wonderful group of authors—including public health and community perspectives on trans-affirmative counseling.

We hope this book de-mythologizes trans mental healthcare and makes it more accessible for mental health practitioners to get training and see how they can change the world for the better by doing trans-affirmative care.

What still needs to change in the field of psychology in order to fully address the needs of TGNC people?

 lore: This is such an important question. In no particular order: Gender Dysphoria needs to be removed from the DSM and placed in the ICD codes as a medical condition so it is not listed as a mental health diagnosis implying that gender diversity or that gender dysphoria is a disorder. Providers must be sanctioned when they engage in reparative therapy with gender nonconforming clients, and providers must be trained to work with gender diverse people.

References

Singh, A. A., & dickey, l. m. (2017). Introduction. In A. A. Singh & l. m. dickey (Eds.). Affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming clients (pp. 3–18). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14957-001