By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Diversity Center of Oklahoma will hold its 3rd Annual Mental Health, Prevention & Education Symposium – “Strengthening Families’ on Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16. It will address best practices for supporting families of Gender Diverse and LGBTQ communities.
The event will be held at the Crowne Plaza Oklahoma City, 2945 Northwest Expressway, beginning at 8 a.m.
“Gender Diverse and LGBTQ families encounter unique challenges related to access and quality of equitable services for the entire age spectrum on healthcare, relationship issues, child rearing, discrimination and legal issues,” said Kelley Blair, CEO, Executive Director Diversity Center of Oklahoma Inc. “Service providers desire advanced and effective ways to strengthen families they serve. Gender Diverse and LGBTQ experts will provide best practice skills and knowledge to strengthen families,” Blair added.
One of the primary goals of the Diversity Center of Oklahoma (DCO) is to increase the number of mental health professionals trained and experienced in providing quality treatment for gender diverse and LGBTQ populations through education.
“DCO works to provide gender diverse / LGBTQ education, prevention and resources directly to the community,” Blair said.
Keynote speaker for the symposium is Susan Cottrell, Founder and President of FreedHearts, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that helps free the hearts of Christian parents to love, accept and affirm their LGBTQ child and deepen their faith in the process.
An international speaker, teacher, theologian and counselor, Cottrell is the author of “Mom, I’m Gay”—Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith”
“We help Christian parents to learn to love, embrace and accept their children without sacrificing their faith,” Cottrell said. “We also help the LGFTQ community to heal their wounds from the church and their families, and that’s so important.” We speak to the church to become more affirming – the church that is willing to hear.”
Blair added, “This year’s symposium will explore various topics impacting gender diversity families and their communities; theories of mental distress and mental health disparity for populations and subpopulations through a series of presentations by national speakers, leading clinicians and professionals in the field.”
Additional speakers include Susan Blanchard – Jones, Board President/SOFFA (Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies) Director; Al Carlozzi, EdD, Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Marital and Family Therapist at the OSU-Tulsa Counseling Center; Scottie Gee Hines B.S., journalist, spiritualist, storyteller and founder of the Scottie Gee Hines podcast; Wes Parks, licensed professional counselor based in Ft Worth, TX; Alyssa Bryant, Tulsa’s only openly transgender lawyer; Sue C. Jacobs, Ph.D, OSU Professor and Ledbetter Lemon Counseling Psychology Diversity Professor in Counseling Psychology.
Other symposium speakers are keynote Laura Arrowsmith, D.O., member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and of the Board of Directors of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.; Ruth Seaman M.D., psychiatrist in Edmond, OK; Traci Hill M.A. a licensed professional counselor; Dr. David Macey, UCO Student Alliance for Equality (SAFE) faculty advisor; Paul Williams MA NCC DBTC licensed professional counselor; Meredith Chapman M.D., psychiatrist in Dallas, TX; Miranda Berman, MA, LBP; Finn Jones executive director and co-founder of Trans-Cendence International, Inc.; Douglas Knutson, Lesbian couple counseling; and minister Sara Cunningham (Free Mom Hugs Tour).
“DCO’s Strengthening Families” Symposium provides two full days of training with the option of continuing education credit,” Blair said.
Topics covered during the symposium will include ‘The Perils of Reparative Therapy,’ ‘Gay Affirmative Therapeutic Services,’ ‘Emotion Focused Therapy for LGBTQ Couples,’ ‘Health Disparities Among the Transgender Community,’ ‘Families and Aging LGBTQ Communities,’ ‘Transgender Community and Families,’ ‘Helping Families Support their LGBTQ Youths,’ and ‘Competent and Ethical Counseling of LGBTQ Persons.’
Sponsors for the symposium are: Colleagues at OSU-Stillwater & Tulsa; Trans-Cendence International, Inc.; Cedar Ridge Behavioral Health; the University of Central Oklahoma; Expressions Community Center; and OKC Pride.
“We are super excited to have some great national speakers coming,” Blair said. “Because the symposium originated from my experience working with OKC Pride, the Diversity Center will be donating a percentage to OKC Pride to continue supporting our community.”
The objective of the 2017 Diversity Center of Oklahoma Inc. Annual Mental Health, Education and Prevention Symposium is to “develop and enhance professional skills and knowledge in prevention, recognition, assessment and treatment of mental health and better awareness of the larger system issues affecting the gender diverse and LGBTQ population.”
“We are offering a special location for our vendors this year,” Blair said. “If you want to have your company or agency acknowledged at the symposium, check out our sponsorship opportunities.”
Early Bird registration is available for attendees interested in CEU’s (continuing education unit) and general rates are available until May 29.
For more information and to register, call 405-252-0372 or visit diversitycenterofoklahoma.org.