Counselor’s Professional Responsibility

In the counseling competencies model, a counselor is responsible for self-monitoring, obtaining proper supervision, and adhering to professional and ethical standards. Establishing the proper ethos of care for LGBT clients requires that counselors be aware of and work though their own feelings about these clients.

Self-monitoring is the means for accomplishing this task. Counselors should be aware of counter-transference. Counter-transference is the process of counselors seeing themselves in their clients, over-identifying with their clients, meeting their personal needs through their clients, or reacting to a client because of unresolved personal conflicts (Corey, 1991).

Recognizing the manifestations of counter-transference reactions is one of the most essential elements of effective counseling. Unless counselors are aware of their own conflicts, needs, assets, liabilities, beliefs, and values, they might use the counseling process more for their own purposes than for their clients’. This self-monitoring is very important when working with LGBT clients. Counselors need to examine their beliefs about lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people because their own beliefs underlie counter-transference.

Some important questions counselors need to ask themselves are the following:

• Are there myths and stereotypes about LGBT people that I believe? Do I, for instance, believe that gay men are child molesters? That LGBT people try to recruit others, especially children, to their orientation and lifestyle? That lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals would all choose to be heterosexual if they could? That transgender people want to change genders because they are really homosexual?

• Do I believe that having sex with someone of the same sex or having sexual feelings toward someone of the same sex indicates that the person is lesbian or gay? Do I believe that the sexual act, by itself, constitutes sexual orientation or identity? Do I believe that having a lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender orientation is unnatural, immoral, sick, or disgusting?

If counselors agree with any of these questions, there is a real need for education, training, supervision, and consultation before they work with LGBT clients because their ability to fairly and competently treat LGBT clients is questionable. Unless these counselors are actively seeking to change or alter these beliefs, they should not treat LGBT clients.

A method of managing counter-transference issues, prejudices, and difficult clients is by supervision. Supervision provides the counselor the opportunity for processing experiences with clients that may be problematic and may be creating anxiety that can interfere with the counseling process. If a counselor is aware of negative feelings about LGBT clients, it is imperative that those issues are taken to supervisors and worked through immediately. If a counselor is aware of his or her prejudicial behavior toward an LGBT client, he or she should be willing to behave differently or transfer the client to someone who is comfortable working with that client.