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SPC Hosts Sexual Identity Counseling Workshop

By Brett Wilson | April 16, 2014

Dr. Mark Yarhouse.

The terrain of leading those struggling with their sexual identity—particularly from a Christian worldview—is still sometimes difficult to navigate. However, Regent University School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) professor Dr. Mark Yarhouse is charting a path for mental health professionals guiding their clients on this journey.

The Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (ISSI), which Yarhouse established at Regent, continues to be a resource for SPC students. The center immerses students in research, training and clinical services to further their understanding of sexual identity.

As it approaches its ten-year anniversary, the ISSI recently hosted a one-day workshop for mental health professionals who provide clinical services to sexual minorities. Yarhouse led the event for local counselors, psychologists and pastors.

"It's important to occasionally provide something like this and just see how it's helpful to people," said Yarhouse. "One of the more interesting things about training like this is that you have people from many different worldviews all in the same room."

The training event explored the professional, ethical and clinical issues for sexual identity concerns within the realm of counseling. Yarhouse explained that fleshing out these obstacles for counselors is important when dealing with sexual identity.

"Many clinicians expressed gratitude for having a framework that is different than what has been in the field to date," said Yarhouse. "I've been lucky enough to have colleagues and mentors who have poured into me and who have been a sounding board, and we've thought through some of the complex issues together."

Yarhouse's counseling method is client-centered and identity-focused, which ultimately is a more appropriate practice to approach sexual identity.

"A lot of the way I've approached developing a therapy was for people where their orientation wasn't changing," said Yarhouse. "I'm not trying to make them straight; I'm trying to help them resolve the conflict that they have between their same-sex sexuality and their faith."

Yarhouse, who has spoken extensively and written several books on the topic, believes that the key to understanding sexual identity comes with focusing on the individual, rather than trying to force an "ex-gay narrative" on an individual's testimony.

"I want to identify the ethical concerns and the trends in services around legislation," said Yarhouse. "But then I want to move us toward a model that I think can be practiced both ethically and in good conscience by a Christian in an area that's fraught with a lot of landmines."

Learn more about and the School of Psychology & Counseling.


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