Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. James M. Croteau

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Ann Miles


Socially sanctioned hostility toward sexual minority persons continues to be a reality in the United States and worldwide. Therapists working with sexual minorities have responsibility to provide non-pathologizing, affirmative therapy to these clients. A central aspect of affirmative therapy is therapists' recognition and understanding of sexual orientation (SO) identity and developmental models of sexual minority identity have a played a vital role in promoting this understanding. Although such models have been central to the practice and training of affirmative therapy, therapists' applied use of the models has not been empirically investigated. For this phenomenological study, nine affirmative therapists were interviewed to explore their use of developmental models of LGB identity in therapy and other ways they might address SO identity more generally. Three themes emerged from this study that directly spoke to the explored phenomena: Main Therapeutic Functions of Developmental Models of LGB Identity: Instilling Hope and Conceptualization, Therapists' Recognition/identification of Models' Limitations, and Specific Strategies Used When Addressing Sexual Orientation Identity in Therapy. Therapists identified that a core aspect of addressing SO identity was allowing clients to take the lead in the process and brought to light the complex interplay between general affirmative practice and specific attention to SO identity development. The results of this study culminated in the creation of an overarching essence unifying the nine therapists' perspectives. This study is one of the first to empirically examine therapists' applied use of developmental models of LGB identity and produced numerous implications for affirmative practice, training, and research. One primary implication for practice and training highlights the potential for developmental models of LGB identity to provide sexual minority clients with a sense of hope, an aspect of the models' therapeutic utility not previously explored. Suggestions for future research include study of a wider population of affirmative therapists using other qualitative methods such as consensual qualitative research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access