Alternative Title

Queerness and agency competence

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Queer theory, Sexual minority community-Services for, Social work with sexual minorities, Sexual minorities-Mental health services, Cultural competence, Queer, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Trans*, Mental health, Agency, HIV/AIDS


This exploratory study’s purpose was to explore queer identity in mental health practice through the question, "Does queerness emerge as a distinct cultural category through the language of conversation, clinical practice, and administrative policy in mental health agencies that serve queer people, and in what practices is this reflected?” This project was undertaken in order to begin to fill gaps in existing cultural competence literature, particularly regarding queer identity.

This project entailed semi-structured interviews with ten participants, who worked in direct service at mental health agencies that serve LGBTQIA+ populations. This study examines the meanings and effects of queerness in mental health agency practice with queer and non-queer clients.

Major findings were that queerness emerges as a cultural category in participant narratives and clinical practice, in tension with its deconstructive and interrogative functions. Queer identity is used as a framework and intervention in clinical practice among study participants. Policy at most represented agencies implicitly rejected queerness as an identity and framework.

This study highlights the roles queer identity and frameworks can play in reflexive, relational clinical practice, the need for queer-specific training at mental health agencies, and the value of a queer interrogation of social work institutions and policies.




iii, 104 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 92-96)

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