Workshop Descriptions

Relational Empowerment: Love Beyond Patriarchy

Terry Real

We all live in a patriarchal, narcissistic, anti-relational culture which is not only hostile to LGBTQ love, but inimical to intimacy itself, embodied in any form. Traditional gender roles, for the most part, constrict all of us. Straight therapists sometimes imagine that by breaking away from heterosexual norms, members of the LGBTQ community have managed to escape patriarchal mores and beliefs. It’s rarely that simple. Under patriarchy, you can be powerful or connected. But you can’t be both at the same time. Relational Empowerment moves beyond patriarchy by teaching the art of telling the truth with love. How to stand up for yourself and cherish your partner at the same time. During this very special keynote address, attendees will learn:

  • How to understand the psychological dynamics intrinsic to patriarchy

  • How to tell the truth with love to our clients

  • How to teach partners how to tell the truth with love to one another

Using The Attachment Spectrum And Relational Neuroscience For More Secure Relationships

Sue Marriott, LCSW, CGP and Ann Kelley, PhD

In this workshop the complex science of the mind, the brain and relationships will be made simple, practical and yes, even fun. We will introduce modern attachment theory and the attachment spectrum to teach you how to identify your coping style and patterns of how you may see yourself and others.  Using the spectrum you’ll learn how to roughly identify your own and close other’s overall strategies and current state of mind. The cool part is we then get to describe how these styles interact and affect one another, and show you how to cool your partner off (or warm them up) if they are upset.  We will also introduce regulation theory (Polyvagal) to enhance this self-awareness and fine-tune your sense of how we co-regulate one another. We will use props, small group discussions, videos, lecture and Q&A for the workshop. Participants will be able to:


  • Name two of five essential elements in creating secure relationships

  • Define what the vagus nerve does for stress reduction

  • Demonstrate one method of cooling off the stress system in themselves or others

If 4th Street Could Talk: Lost, Looking, & Loving

William Lyons, LCSW

Today, queer youth of color are coming of age caught in a struggle to explore and maintain a “fusion” of their identities.  At times, forced to choose between violence, tolerance, or exotification based on their racial, gender, and sexual identities results in trauma and microaggressions.  The injustices in our society derail many youth from developing mutual, healthy, and supportive relationships.  I hope to vividly reimagine what queer youth of color look like and hopefully inspire a personal devotion to creating opportunities for safer spaces, healing, and fulfillment. Attendees will learn about:

  • Who might be most impacted by social determinants of health and wellbeing

  • The Mahogany Project and its work to create healing spaces

  • Resources to support QPOC and QYOC

The Boomerang Effect: Research-Based Practices That Bring Love Back To You

Jeff Lutes, LPC

Relational health is a public health issue and relational distress has been associated with higher rates of depression and substance abuse. Forty percent of individuals who enter psychotherapy cite relationship concerns, at least in part, as the cause of their mental health problems. Additionally, the negative impact of chronic relationship distress on the emotional well-being of children is clearly documented in the behavioral sciences. Roughly eighty percent of separated or divorced couples say they simply “grew apart.” Yet, only thirty-seven percent of divorced persons seek counseling before dissolving their marriage and those that do get help often wait until their connection has deteriorated dramatically before doing so. Few couples use professional services to maintain marital health and there is a need for educational strategies and preventative care before irreversible damage occurs. In this talk, Jeff will expound upon the work of biological anthropologist Helen Fischer, and attendees will learn the importance of:

  • Developing the capacity for empathy in relationship, and how to go about it

  • Each partner managing their own stress in relationship, and a cool technique to get started

  • Overlooking negatives and emphasizing positives in relationship, and strategies for making this a daily and intentional habit

Lessons From The Margins: What We Can Learn From Communities That Embrace Kink, Fetish, BDSM, and Non-Monogomy

Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

Research continues to demonstrate that individuals who embrace their differential desires are better at boundaries and communication and experience more emotional well-being. How do these groups foster healthy interrelation and what cultural norms do they engender that we could all benefit from in our relationships? Attendees will learn:


  • How individuals can identify and establish boundaries through clear communication and expectations

  • How individuals can implement strategies to meet relational needs without manipulation or the imposition of will on others

  • How individuals can be mindful of their emotional reactions and increase self-responsibility their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

The Gay Baby Boom: How To Bring Children Home and Legally Protect Your Family

Suzanne Bryant & Denise Hyde, Adoption Attorneys

Today, when you come out to your parents, there is no need for them to lament that they will never become grandparents.  The gay baby boom is real and thousands of children come into LGBTQ homes each year.   Studies show, again and again, that our kids turn out just fine.  But many LGBTQ folks don’t know how to bring children into their lives or how to make sure everyone in the family is legally protected.   There is so much information out there about sperm banks, known donors, surrogacy, independent adoption, foster parenting/adoption, etc. It can be overwhelming. In addition to answering your specific questions about these topics, Suzanne and Denise will help you learn about:

  • How LGBTQ people are becoming parents in Texas

  • Second-parent adoptions available to LGBTQ couples in Texas

  • Maternity orders available to all married female couples in Texas

The Spirituality Of Relationships

John Howard, LPC, LMFT

Relationships are a spiritual exercise in that they elicit our most existential thoughts and feelings. They challenge us to grow, not only in our behaviors, but in our presence. Relationships help our minds become more flexible, our psychology more resilient, and widen our abilities of acceptance and compassion. In a polarized society, the ability to find unity in multiplicity is much needed but becoming more rare, yet it is what allows us to find common ground in our personal differences. Relationships offer a spiritual path to growth if we focus on how the relationship seeks to deepen our presence. Relationship happens in the moment. In that sense, the presence we bring to our partnerships, moment by moment, can count for more than our words. This talk will help audience members understand how to better use differences in their relationships to deepen a personal sense of peace, and practical tips on what they can do to grow through those friction points. Attendees will learn:

  • How to recognize friction points as opportunities for both relationship and individual growth

  • An understanding of relationship as a path of spiritual growth--finding unity in multiplicity, expanding tolerance and resilience

  • How moment-by-moment presence is an critical currency of connection often neglected in relationship education

Kindr On Grindr: An Adult Guide To Dating And Hooking Up

Adam Maurer, LMFT, LPC

The self-proclaimed “Emily Post of Grindr,” Mrs. Adam Maurer will teach you all the tips and tricks to creating sexy and kind connections in the cyber age. She will explore how to reduce the harm we might inadvertently cause others as we try to fulfill romantic and erotic needs; as well as tools to address a lack of kindness when it comes knocking at your own digital door. Major challenges to kindness while dating and hooking up in the LGBTQ+ community will be considered alongside the unique obstacles we face as marginalized people. Listen and learn so that we can all be more sexy and kind together! Attendees will learn:

  • At least one tip for communicating their romantic and/or erotic needs with kindness

  • At least one tip for dealing with a lack of kindness while dating and hooking up

  • How to not personalize bad behaviors in dating and hooking up through a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ experiences and the culture of dating and hooking up in the digital age

At the Crossroads: Exploring The Intersection Of The LGBTQIA Community And Christianity

Caleb Matthews, LPC, LMFT

This presentation explores the intersection of the LGBTQIA community and Christianity. As president of The Human Empathy Project (a local non-profit dedicated to this cause), Caleb Matthews will discuss the history and terminology of faith, gender, and sexuality. Caleb will also explore the topic of advocacy, resources, and research-based findings for facilitating conversations among polarized communities. Participants will learn:


  • A brief history of the LGBTQIA community and Christianity 

  • The important language and definitions for speaking about the LGBTQIA community and Christianity

  • About advocacy and resources related to the LGBTQIA community and Christianity

Coming Out To Your Kids

Karen Rayne, PhD

Identity is a funny thing. Traditionally parents share many of their identities with their children – race, ethnicity, religion. Identities that may not be shared are usually known and understood from the beginning, like gender, sexual orientation, educational level, etc. But what happens when a parent needs to share new information about who they are? Come talk about why, when, and how to share evolving identities with children of all ages with someone who’s been there, done that. Participants will leave this presentation understanding:


  • Why parents can and/or should share their identities with their children

  • How to share parent identities with young children, children, adolescents, and adult children

  • Resources parents can use and share with their children

Sexual Health and Public Health: Are You Cumming?

Jenny McFarlane

Mental health, sexual health, and infectious disease therapies have advanced greatly in the last ten years. Developments in therapeutic techniques, such as trauma informed care, person first language and advances in biomedical interventions to protect against HIV acquisition and transmission, such as PrEP and HIV viral suppression have shifted the conversations among mental health and public health professionals. This talk will review the new HIV biomedical interventions, the impact of these interventions on patients’ sexual health and associated therapeutic conversations. Additionally, we will explore the influence of stigma, homophobia, self-efficacy, on the patient and therapist. After this talk, attendees will be able to:


  • Describe how PrEP and Treatment as Prevention improves a patient’s health

  • Describe how social determinates impact a patient’s sexual health

  • How a therapist can identify her/his own unintentional bias and/or lack of education about HIV biomedical interventions can influence a patient’s sexual health

Body Comparison, Body Image Distress And Eating Disorders: Unique Challenges Within Same-sex Female Relationships

Erin Ebert, LMSW and Sterling Bittenbender RD, LD

Women in same-sex relationships (whether they identify as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or anywhere within the queer spectrum), face a unique challenge in regards to body image and body comparison, as it is often seen as a "direct" body comparison. Under the LGBTQ umbrella, most research is focused on gay males. In an effort to better understand and serve women - the majority of eating disorder treatment seekers - we must learn more about L/B/Q women and their experiences. Clinical research regarding the LGBTQ community, eating disorders, and body image issues is sparse and frequently founded on stereotypes (such as "lesbians have less frequency of eating disorders because they aren't trying to attract males"). This presentation will seek to illuminate misconceptions regarding this population, debunk myths and provide clinical vignettes as an opportunity to discuss best practice, as well as opportunities for increased research within this population. Presentation will offer time for Q&A, prompted questions, as well as open discussion for participants. Following this presentation, attendees will be able to:


  • Discuss unique challenges the L/B/Q population may experience in regard to body image and eating disorders

  • Identify 3 misconceptions about L/B/Q women in body image and eating disorder research

  • Articulate strategies to assist in challenging body image distress and comparison

Somatic Arts: Integrating Touch And Talk Within The LGBTQ Community

Susan Kaye, PhD

The purpose of this workshop is to build upon Masters and Johnsons sensate focus exercises through education of the Triadic Model. Bridging traditional sex therapy with certified body workers will add tools to the relationship tool box utilizing safe and ethical practices which include LGBTQ community. This presentation will not be focused on gender identity or advanced levels of theory. It will be presented in a nongendered process and open to all levels. Inclusion of case studies which have involved LGBTQ clients as well as persons who identified as nontraditional will be highlighted. Question and answer time will be given to clarify concerns over any perceived bias. At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will:


  • Be able to assess the possible value of the EXPANDED triadic model and how to apply it for issues and concerns

  • Have the resources and information to construct and plan along with a bodywork practitioner the best possible steps towards relationship wholeness for those who seek counsel or basic relationship guidance

  • Have tools to achieve body/mind wholeness from a model that incorporates various modalities in the healing arts: including verbal therapy, medical consultation, mindfulness training, or the various bodywork therapies including surrogate partner therapy

More-Than-Monogamous: An Exploration Of Everything BUT Monogamy

Ty David Lerman, MA, LPC-S, CHt

According to the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, more than 20% of the adult population has been in a consensual open sexual relationship at some point in their lives. More and more, society is becoming exposed to and aware of alternative relationship orientations (non-monogamy) to counter the more traditional monogamous relationship orientation. With the rise of alternative orientations, therapists must rise to the occasion and meet our clients where they are. This presentation will explore the different styles of more-than-monogamous relationship orientations, with the purpose of gaining exposure and normalizing these orientations. This presentation will:


  • Include an exploration of different types of more-than-monogamous relationship orientations

  • Talk through a “101” of terms used specific to these relationships

  • Discuss the differences of prevalence in populations based on gender and sexual orientation

  • Address clinical considerations unique to working with open/poly relationships

Shift Happens: Sexual Identity, Faith Crisis, And Post-Traumatic Growth

Emily Stone, PhD, LMFT-S

Spirituality and Sexuality are both at their core relational and related to attachment security. They are deeply connected to our felt sense of belonging and authenticity. Therefore, these are potential points of deep traumatic experiences. Both spiritual and sexual identity, including and particularly queer sexual identity, flourishes in spaces that are safe for vulnerability and authenticity. Intersections of trauma in these areas of spiritual and queer identity development bring extensive potential harm to a person’s inter- and intra-personal worlds. Presentation will cover the stages of spiritual formation, sexual identity formation, and stages of post-traumatic growth model as well as how individuals at these various intersecting stages present in therapy. Powerpoint will be used to organize and share information. Drawing from case studies, personal stories, and the literature, we will then explore specific themes including queer identity, resistance, normativity as well as “coming out”, internalized homophobia, and conflicting identities as trauma. Collaboration will be encouraged and ample time will be given for discussion. Based on the content of this session, attendees will be able to:


  • Identify the stages of spiritual/faith development and queer identity development

  • Identify potential for trauma and growth at each stage

  • Implement specific interventions with queer clients based on a post-traumatic growth model

Why I Went To Reparative Therapy And How it Impacted My Life

David Schlosz, LPC-Intern (Supervised by Josh Krueger McAdams, LPC-S)

Research and the media indicate that Reparative/Conversion Therapy is still practiced in many states although it has been deemed unethical by the APA, ACA, and many other mental health organizations. Participants in this form of therapy often struggle with increased depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. My story of surviving this form of therapy is common to many survivors and sheds light on the motivations for seeking out this form of therapy and how one can recover from its devastating effects. Participants will:


  • Be able to understand reasons why some seek out and enter reparative therapy

  • Understand obstacles that gay men in leaving/abandoning reparative therapy ideology

  • Discuss factors to be aware of, and available resources, to better serve this population

Casual Sex Versus Longer Term Relationships: Where Are The Reconciled Scripts For Gay Men?

Rahim Thawer, MSW, RSW

Gay men’s mental health is often discussed in contexts of sexual health and HIV prevention.This presentation offers a different framework for understanding gay men's mental health concerns by positioning them as responses to conflicting cultural scripts and representations around casual sex and long term relationships. We will explore what issues arise when working in a landscape where both casual sex and long term relationships are revered and criticized on an ongoing basis without adequate representations and community conversations about what reconciled scripts can look like or what skills are needed to actualize relationship models that work for gay men. Attendees will:

  • Consider the conflicts that arise in messages gay men have internalized from mainstream/straight and gay communities

  • Re-frame gay men's mental health concerns as products of (or adaptations to) casual sex and relationship pressures/scripts (outside the usual parameters of HIV prevention)

  • Conceptualize the "traps" that arise when the clinical issues that arise from navigating casual sex and relationships are not fully processed

  • Imagine the nuances and relationship permutations needed for more useful cultural representations of gay men's lives in order to foster more reconciled scripts

Against The Grain: Non-Traditional Partnerships

Ali Johnson, LCSW

Non traditional relationships are becoming less taboo as people move away from the standard coupling of two individuals and toward a situation that meets their emotional, physical and monetary needs. In this session, we will discuss non traditional partnership in regard to the various types of arrangements, why people partake in these relational dynamics and commitments and what the cultural and societal impact for these couples is. We will discuss the dynamics of polyamory, swinging, open and closed relationships, and homoflexible relationships (just to name a few). We will also discuss non traditional relationship view points on partnership structure and how people are raising a family under these new "rules." Attendees will:


  • Learn about different partnership styles (monogamous, open, poly, etc)

  • Understand why people choose non traditional relational arrangements 

  • Discuss the cultural and societal exceptions for couples and their partnership choices

10 Things All Partners Of Sexual Trauma Survivors Should Know For A Fulfilling Relationship

Traci Pirri, LCSW

This talk will begin with an overview of how romantic relationships can be affected by one partner having a history of sexual trauma. Participant participation will be encouraged by exploring audience assumptions and then dispelling myths associated with the topic. Then a 10-item list of do's and don'ts will be explored using case examples to dig deeper into each concept. Participants will have:


  • A better understanding of how unresolved sexual trauma affects romantic relationships

  • Concrete instructions on what to do and what not to do in support of their partner

  • A better understanding of common myths associated with sexual trauma

The Daily Temperature Reading: A Simple App That Enhances Intimacy

Jeff Lutes, LPC

In this workshop, conference founder Jeff Lutes will demonstrate the use of the Daily Temperature Reading (DTR) - a research-validated tool originally developed by Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of humanistic psychology. Refined over the years, and developed into an app by the PAIRS Foundation, the DTR is a powerful and structured way to stay connected and minimize the miscommunications that often plague busy couples. After learning the tool, participants will have a chance to practice it with each other and will leave the workshop ready to teach it to clients, friends, and loved ones. Participants will learn about:


  • Appreciations - acknowledging the efforts of the other with specific examples

  • New Information - intentionally updating the other about what is new in your life

  • Puzzles - asking questions and avoiding incorrect assumptions

  • Concerns With Recommendations - expressing and listening to concerns effectively

  • Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams - enlisting the other to support the fulfillment of our ambitions

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Integrating cutting edge science and practical experience to explore dating, relationships, and parenting within the LGBTQ community. Open to the LGBTQ public (singles and those in a relationship) as well as allies, community leaders, and mental health professionals (CE credits available).

©  2019 by Contemporary Relationships Conference

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