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Nation's First LGBT Psychology Internship Starts at Northwestern

Not enough psychologists for stress-related health problems for LGBT people

CHICAGO --- The nation’s first clinical psychology internship track focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health will launch this fall at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  

“This is historic,” said Brian Mustanski, associate professor of medical social sciences at Feinberg and director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program. “It’s one of the first federal grants ever awarded on LGBT health training and the first for a clinical psychology internship.  

“We know there are not enough psychologists who have this type of training,” Mustanski said. “LGTB people are more likely to suffer from stress-related health issues than heterosexuals. Psychologists can play a very important role in helping prevent or treat these issues.” 

Studies have shown that as a group, LGBT adults experience more mood and anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts and substance use compared to heterosexual adults. LGBT people are more frequently the targets of bullying, discrimination and violence because of their sexual-and-gender-minority status, which can lead to long-lasting effects on both the individual and the LGBT community. 

Psychology students in the internship will focus the entire final year of their graduate education learning the health care and emotional needs of LGBT people, providing clinical services and studying clinical research.    

The internship program is a partnership between Feinberg and the Center on Halsted, the largest social service center in the Midwest for the LGBT community.

“The scope of this new program reaches beyond Chicago, significantly impacting the future of mental health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and the clinical psychologists who serve this population across the country,” said Modesto Tico Valle, chief executive officer of the Center on Halsted. “Our center is leading the way in securing a healthy future for LGBTQ individuals as we help prepare the next generation of mental health professionals to provide the most appropriate levels of care.”    

Interns will participate in rotations that include training in mental health care for LGBT clients, working with gay and bisexual men living with HIV/AIDS in an infectious disease clinic, caring for low-income individuals with serious mental illness and contributing to LGBT public health research and services. 

“This is an exceptional new opportunity as interns will get the benefit of working with some of the leading LGBT scholars and top clinicians in the country,” said Mark Reinecke, chief of psychology at Feinberg and head of the internship program.  

Mustanski said health professionals with greater exposure to this patient population and formal education in LGBT psychology are more likely to take the time to learn a patient’s sexual orientation and to provide competent care.

“Our goal is to train clinical psychologists who are prepared for careers as clinicians and clinical researchers who are competent to address the health inequities and disproportionalities in the LGBT population,” Mustanski added.  

The internship program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and will support three interns each year for three years.