Rationale for Group Proposal:
As a reflection of societal culture, schools serve as primary units of socialization for children and adolescents. Through their prescribed curriculum, rules and disciplinary actions, schools communicate societal messages to students and the community at large regarding appropriate norms, values and beliefs. Unfortunately, at times, these messages can communicate rejection and intolerance towards certain populations. This is often the case for gay/lesbian/bisexual (hereinafter g/l/b) individuals. Despite the current multicultural counseling trend, the g/l/b population remains unrecognized and ignored by many school counseling professionals. G/l/b adolescents have the difficult psychological task of identity formulation and consolidation within the confines of a primarily heterosexist or even homophobic school climate. G/l/b individuals often experience feelings of isolation and stigmatization due to their sexual orientation (Nichols, 1999). As a result, g/l/b youth are considered a high-risk group. These youth are more likely to attempt suicide, engage in substance abuse and risky sexual behavior, struggle with depression and/or anxiety, and possess lower self-esteem than their heterosexual peers (Bagley & Temblay, 2000; Slater, 1988). It is of immense importance that school professionals address the issue of homosexuality. This may be done through the establishment of non-discrimination policies, education of students and staff, direct intervention with perpetrators of harassment and discrimination, and most importantly, support for students exploring their sexuality and those targeted for harassment and intimidation. Review of Literature:
Research regarding the availability of counseling services to g/l/b adolescents is limited. Fontaine and Hammond (1996) conducted research in an effort to provide counselors with information regarding sexual identity formation, increased mental health risk for g/l/b youth, and “coming out” issues. A component of one’s total identity is a sense of who you are as a sexual being. The development of a heterosexual identity is a social norm that typically requires little conscious thought or effort. However, the task of developing a homosexual identity can be secretive, lonely and draining. G/l/b individuals often do not receive societal and peer affirmation when forming their sexual identity. It may be the experience of isolation from family, friends and peers that serves as the motivating factor for g/l/b individuals to seek counseling services. Counselors should be thoughtful of the potential costs and consequences of a g/l/b adolescent’s decision to inform others (family, friends and counselors) of their sexual orientation. Ethical considerations, especially in terms of confidentiality, assume particular therapeutic significance with g/l/b youth (Sobocinski, 1990). Support and advocacy on behalf of g/l/b youth should be a crucial responsibility of the modern educational system.
According to Slater (1988), in order to effectively work with g/l/b youth, counseling professionals must be relatively free of homophobia and have an understanding of alternative lifestyles. Professionals who possess feelings of homophobia will provide little assistance if they project negative feelings onto their g/l/b clients. The counselor should avail themselves to interact neutrally with g/l/b youth. Counseling professionals should also be aware of the major problems faced by g/l/b youth. Slater (1988) identifies homophobia, healthful role models, disclosing sexual orientation to others, and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as pertinent problems facing g/l/b adolescents. Counseling professionals can provide examples from history, media and literature of successful g/l/b individuals. It is also important to provide clients with quality g/l/b community resources, such as social groups, local...