Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Social work with gays, Social work with lesbians, Positive psychology, Gays-Mental health services, Lesbians-Mental health services, Gay, Lesbian, Mental, Social services


This thesis reports on the preliminary oral history findings collected for a larger national study directed by David S. Byers and Stephen Vider. The findings reported here focus on the experiences of clinicians and social service providers in Los Angeles, California. Another student, Dexter Rose, conducted similar field research in Seattle, Washington. Both projects were under the supervision of the principal investigators. This investigative oral history study examines the perspective of clinicians and social services workers who provided affirmative services to gay and lesbian communities in the years 1960-1987. These years are of great importance because they mark the beginning of political gay and lesbian movements, LGBT riots and organizing, the removal of homosexuality from the DSM, and the discovery and devastation of AIDS. This study documents the experiences of the founders and leaders of the gay andlesbian social services and seeks to understand their motivation to organize their communities.

The following question guided this study, “What motivated social services providers and mental health professionals to provide affirmative therapy and services to LGBT during the 1960-1987?” I conducted semi-structured interviews with 10 gay and lesbian leaders from Los Angeles. Qualitative research allows for naturally occurring patterns and themes, which were interpreted through theoretical lenses. Analysis of the data made salient these themes: social services needs; Latinos, social services, and the AIDS crisis; and mental health as a response to oppression sickness.

In the end, gay affirmative services in Los Angeles are the result of political activism and following the example of other social movements, such as Stonewall and the Black Panthers. Gay affirmative mental health is the result of grassroots activism and “bottom up” development and not the result of the psychological establishment’s changing their views about LGBT people.




iv, 69 pages : color illustrations. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 56-59)

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Social Work Commons